Senate Passes $149 Billion Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits

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The Senate has approved a $149 billion jobless bill that extends unemployment benefits to those who have been out of work for more than a year, as well as subsidies for unemployed workers to help pay employer-sponsored health insurance.

The bill provides unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks in many states to people who have had no luck in finding work, and it extends through December the 65% subsidy of health insurance premiums for unemployed workers under the Cobra program.

In addition, the bill provides further aid to financially strapped states to pay rising Medicaid costs and fixes a long-standing problem involving Medicare reimbursement to doctors, preventing them from having to absorb a 21% cut in payments. The bill also extends a variety of popular tax breaks that have expired.

The measure passed on a 62-36 vote largely along party lines. It now moves to House of Representatives, which passed a similar bill last year. Conservatives protested the legislation, saying it would add too much to the nation's $12.5 trillion debt. The measure easily cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday, when lawmakers voted 66-34 to break a Republican filibuster.
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