| WASHINGTON, July 21
WASHINGTON, July 21 Senate Republicans on
Wednesday delayed action to restore U.S. unemployment benefits
for those who have been out of work the longest, prolonging a
partisan standoff even though the measure is certain to pass.
Some 2.5 million jobless Americans have seen their benefits
lapse since the end of May as the Senate has deadlocked over
how to cover the $34 billion cost of extending them through
Congress is all but certain to restore those benefits by
the end of the week after Democrats broke a Republican
procedural hurdle on Tuesday afternoon. But Republicans
appeared to be running out the legislative clock, delaying a
final vote until as late as 9 p.m. on Wednesday (0100 GMT
"Perhaps the overwhelming majority of Republicans think
that since they've turned their backs on the unemployed for so
many months, what's another few days?" Senate Democratic Leader
Harry Reid said. "Perhaps they think that when unemployment
goes up, their poll numbers do too."
With congressional elections looming in November, Democrats
are eager to show voters they are doing all they can to bring
down the 9.5 percent unemployment rate and help those
struggling to emerge from the worst recession since the Great
Republicans, meanwhile, are raising the alarm about a
budget deficit that is expected to come in near last year's
level of 9.9 percent of GDP. They say Congress should cut
spending elsewhere to cover the cost of extending benefits.
Congress could have renewed the expired benefits months ago
if Democrats had agreed to cut spending elsewhere, said a
spokesman for Republican Senator Tom Coburn.
"Reid, and many politicians in Washington who are addicted
to spending, don't want to do the hard work of choosing between
funding unemployment benefits or the obscene amount of waste in
the federal budget. They want both," said Coburn spokesman John
Democrats said the additional delay served no purpose other
than to prolong the difficulties faced by those who are
struggling to make ends meet. Nearly half of the unemployed
have been out of work for more than six months, the highest
level of long-term joblessness since the government began
keeping track in the late 1940s.
"This latest move gives the partisan minority 30 more hours
to stall in the Senate, but that means 30 more hours of
suffering for these hard-working families trying to get by,"
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric