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Democrats May Still Lack 60 Votes For Jobless Benefit Debate Cloture

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Senate Democrats still may not have the votes to limit debate on extended unemployment benefits, Roll Call reported Thursday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delayed a morning vote on a debate limit until Thursday afternoon, the Capitol Hill newspaper reported. Top Democrats have said they are close to the 60 votes to limit debate.

Roll Call said the delay should allow Iowa Republican Charles E. Grassley to return to the Capitol for the vote. Grassley had been absent due to the death of his sister. He last missed a roll call vote while touring flood damage in Iowa with President Bill Clinton in 1993.

The jobless benefits under consideration would be paid for with an extension of “pension smoothing,” which allows companies to reduce deductible pension contributions, Roll Call said.

Reid also said Thursday that Senators are working to set up a vote to confirm Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) as the next ambassador to China before leaving for the week, the newspaper reported.

Republican aides said quick action on Baucus should be seen as a case of old-school courtesy, not an easing of party tensions.

Some 1.3 million people who have been out of work for at least six months were left without unemployment benefits when the long-term benefits program expired in Dec. 28. Since then, 72,000 have been added to the total each week.

Democrats say the long-term coverage is needed because nearly 38 percent of unemployed workers have been out of work for at least 27 weeks, The Hill reported.

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