House Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt Tuesday to extend unemployment benefits for an eighth time since 2008, saying they couldn't stomach adding the $33.9 billion price tag to the deficit.
Democrats, who argued the country always borrowed to help out the unemployed in rough economic times, accused Republicans of turning their backs on the neediest Americans and said the GOP will suffer for the blockade.
"Those who vote 'no' when they go back home are really going to find themselves basically alone, because those who vote 'no' have no place to hide," said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander M. Levin, Michigan Democrat.
Unemployment benefits have become one of the key battlefields as Democrats push to extend stimulus programs and Republicans balk at the growing cost. Tuesday's vote comes after Democrats repeatedly failed to pass a broad stimulus extension in the Senate, which also would have included unemployment benefits.
The measure fell short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass under the expedited rules Democrats used to bring the bill to the floor, with the final tally being 261-155.
"The issue isn't should we extend benefits to the unemployed, the issue is should they be paid for," said Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.
House Democrats said 1.7 million Americans will have exhausted their benefits by this weekend. They had designated the money as an emergency, thus exempting it from their own pay-as-you-go requirements for increased spending.
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