With Millions Losing Benefits, Ben Nelson Blocks Extension Of Unemployment Insurance | TPMDC
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) last night prevented his fellow Democrats from finally passing legislation to extend needed unemployment insurance benefits to out of work Americans. It was the third time the legislation, which has been repeatedly pared down and reshaped in the hunt for votes, has failed to overcome a filibuster. But it was the first time that success or failure rested on a single deciding vote. And because Nelson, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, joined Republicans and blocked the bill, it will likely not pass until mid-July, after the Senate returns from Independence Day recess. By then Robert Byrd's replacement will be seated, and Dems will have the votes they need to pass their jobs bill.
Here's what happened.
The Senate was by all accounts done for the day, and any further attempts to extend unemployment insurance would have to wait another day. But at about 8 pm, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to give it one more shot and called the vote, which had to be held open to allow Senators caught unaware to reach the chamber. When it was all said and done, the final vote was 58-38 with three Republicans not voting.
Of course, it requires 60 votes to break a filibuster, meaning Democrats were two votes shy. So why does this fall on Ben Nelson? When a cloture vote fails, the Majority Leader often switches his vote from yes to no. But he's not joining the filibuster. It's a parliamentary maneuver that allows him to bring the issue back to the floor easily at a later time, without having to go through the longer process of filing for cloture again.
That's what happened last night. With the death of Robert Byrd, Democrats have 58 voting members.