WASHINGTON, April 14 (Reuters) - A measure that would restore lapsed jobless aid for hundreds of thousands of Americans stalled in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday after Democrats failed to muster enough votes to overcome a procedural hurdle.
The 58 to 40 vote dealt a setback to Democrats, who had hoped to quickly restore jobless benefits to those who have lost them after Republicans prevented their renewal several weeks ago.
Democrats planned another vote, perhaps later in the day, when they could ensure that all of their members would be present.
With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, some 6.1 million Americans rely on jobless benefits to help them pay the bills as they look for work in the worst economic downturn in 70 years.
Those benefits expired for more than 200,000 Americans last week after Republican Senator Tom Coburn prevented a vote at the end of March, shortly before Congress left town on a two-week break.
Another 200,000 Americans will lose their benefits this week if Congress does not renew them, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal advocacy group.
Coburn and other Republicans argue that Congress should find a way to pay for the $9.2 billion cost of extending benefits, rather than letting it add to a budget deficit projected to hit a record $1.5 trillion this fiscal year.
Wednesday’s vote was the second procedural roadblock thrown up by Republicans in a process that could take most of the week. One Republican, George Voinovich, joined Democrats to vote to set aside a law that requires new spending to be offset by tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere.
With Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy absent, Democrats were still one vote short of the 60 needed for passage, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to ensure that he could bring up the measure again. (Reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Andy Sullivan, editing by Jackie Frank)