House Stops Short on Extension of Unemployment Benefits

The House of Representatives failed to pass a 90-day extension of expiring unemployment benefits Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 258-154.

The measure, considered under suspension rules, required a two-thirds majority of 275 votes for passage. The $12.5 billion dollar package would have kept two million people from losing their unemployment checks in February.

House Democrats lamented the measure's failure, and blasted the GOP for voting against it. "This vote was a stark test of our priorities, and House Republicans are decidedly in the wrong place for middle-class families," said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a statement.

Republicans say the measure would have added to the budget deficit, and an extension that did not do so would have passed easily. "Just two weeks after the election, the Democratic Leadership is playing politics with people's unemployment benefits," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Eleven Democrats voted against the measure. Of those, three are conservative Blue Dog Democrats who won their reelection bids by large margins. The remaining eight won't be back for the next Congress. Only one is retiring.

Many of the twenty-one Republicans who voted for the measure come from states facing unemployment figures above the national average such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Hoyer says that the House will vote again on an extension during the week of November 29th, after members return from Thanksgiving break.