Toomey, Casey split on unemployment benefits
UPDATED with vote results.
WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania's Senators split on a vote to extend emergency unemployment benefits Tuesday morning.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a fiscally conservative Republican, opposed an extension pushed by President Obama and fellow Democrats, which would extend benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed. The extensions, which have allowed people out of work to collect unemployment longer than usual during the recession and slow recovery, expired at the end of December.
Toomey had been seen as a potential Republican vote in favor of the measure. But six other Republicans joined Democrats and independents to advance the measure passed a key procedural hurdle, 60-37, setting up potential passage this week -- though the plan will likely be blocked in the GOP-controlled House.
Toomey joined 36 other Republicans in voting against the bill. (Three senators were absent).
"I have voted to extend unemployment benefits beyond the 26 weeks in the past. Unfortunately, this bill does not address the underlying problem. It does nothing to boost economic growth or spur job creation. A better approach would be to address the Administration's job-killing policies, such as Obamacare, the War on Coal, and our overly complex tax code," Toomey said in a statement released Tuesday morning, shortly ahead of the vote.
"In addition, the measure adds $6 billion to our deficit. In the past, we have found ways to pay for extensions in unemployment insurance and we should do the same now," Toomey said. "Unfortunately, it appears Republicans will be denied any input including amendments to create jobs or reduce spending to pay for the bill."
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) supported the extension and will be going to the White House this morning to join Obama in an event urging the Senate to approve the measure.
"This legislation will provide an essential lifeline to middle class families who rely on the program to stay afloat as they actively seek work," Casey said in a news release. "With the program affecting 73,000 Pennsylvanians currently looking for work, extending it will also provide an essential boost to our state economy."
Republicans want the cost of an extension paid for with spending cuts elsewhere. Pennsylvania's state Democratic party assailed Toomey's vote.
"Instead of standing with those in our country and Commonwealth who need a little extra help to survive in a tough economy, Sen. Pat Toomey sided with Tea Party extremists and voted against extending the unemployment benefits," the state party said in a news release.
New Jersey Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez are also voted in favor of the measure.
"Congress never allowed special unemployment benefits to expire w/ long-term unemployment rate this high," Booker wrote on Twitter Monday morning. "I will vote to reinstate benefits."
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