U.S. Senate approves jobless aid extension, ends one-man filibuster

15:36, March 03, 2010      

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U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved extension of a law to provide some 10 billion U.S. dollars to fund jobless aid, highway construction and other federal programs. The vote on the stopgap measure, which was nothing more than symbolic in Capitol Hill, was held up in the chamber by one lone Senator until Tuesday night, capturing headlines all across the country.

The Senate passed the extensions by a vote of 78 to 19, sending the bill for President Barack Obama to sign. The House of Representatives already approved the measure last week. The programs, which include popular programs such as jobless benefit, healthcare subsidy and highway construction, expired on Sunday after Republican Senator from Kentucky Jim Bunning single-handedly blocked their renewal with a one-man filibuster.

Bunning held up the spending bill for several days since last Thursday, seeking to force Democrats to finance the measure so that it wouldn't add to federal deficit. Bunning proposed to pay for it with leftover money from last year's stimulus package, but Democrats wouldn't budge.

According to the Senate's rules, any one of the 100 Senators can block the bill, at least temporarily.

As the Senate failed to clear the bill before it expired, 2,000 construction workers with the Transportation Department were furloughed without pay, and an estimated 200,000 jobless Americans' benefits were cut off beginning Monday.

The situation captured attention from media outlets all across the United States, seen as a typical example of how Washington failed to understand the day-to-day struggle of ordinary citizens, and the bitter partisan fight that has logjammed the Congress.

During the span of his one-man holdup, Bunning was trailed by reporters everywhere, even inside the halls of the Senate office buildings. His cranky altercation with reporters broadcast on national television over and over again.

As Democrats assailed Bunning and the GOP, his fellow Republican began to voice concern, pressuring him to relent. Bunning announced last year he won't seek reelection this year due to difficulty in raising campaign funds.

Source: Xinhua
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