The U.S. Senate passed a $140 billion extension on unemployment benefits on March 9 by a vote of 66-34.
The bill would also extend cuts for college tuition, help pay for the COBRA program, which helps laid off workers keep their health insurance, provide additional funding for Medicaid and tax breaks for high-tech research and development.
Democrats called the bill crucial for improving conditions for both unemployed workers and businesses, ahead of this fall’s mid-term elections.
“Extending these tax cuts and the critical safety-net programs in this bill will give businesses the tax certainty they need to move forward and families the support they need to make ends meet,” Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told The Chicago Tribune.
Not everyone is pleased about the bill. Many Republican senators think the bill may be too expensive for American taxpayers.
“There’s $100 billion in the bill that’s on the Senate floor right now that’s not paid for,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told CNN. “So whatever savings they allege will occur under their health care bill over the next 10 years is going to be gone as soon as this bill passes.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) agreed with McConnell, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Congress can’t keep coming up with grand ideas like this $100 billion jobs bill, [and] pretending it can add to our alarming debt without hurting the economy.”
The bill, or a sister version, must still be passed by the House of Representatives before a joint version of the bill is passed by a House-Senate conference committee.