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Mr. McDermott’s bill costs $1.4 billion and is funded by extending the Federal Unemployment Tax Act surcharge through 2010. The Senate plans are more expensive, though no cost estimate is available.

Unemployment insurance is a regular political hot spot every time the economy turns sour. Democrats blasted Republicans in 2002 and 2003 for not acting faster to extend benefits. Since the economy took a tumble last year, Congress has passed several extensions.

Still, the poor job situation confounds the unemployed, said Ms. McGilly. She said she’s been looking for work since January 2008, and said she’s had about 72 weeks of unemployment benefits since then. She’s also been part of an education program that paid benefits while she took job-training classes.

She said her weekly payment started at $319 a week and was boosted $25 when Congress passed the stimulus bill in February.

Ms. McGilly said she has called the senators from her state repeatedly and tried to call the Finance Committee to beg for action.

She said the staffers who answer the phone tell her that her senators support the bill and “it will be voted on sometime later on, but right now they’re concentrating on the health reform bill.”