Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted "no," along with most of their Republican colleagues, but the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a measure to advance a temporary extension of unemployment benefits to more than 1 million of America's jobless.
The vote to move forward with the legislation was 60-37, with six Republicans and all Democrats voting "yes," to begin formal debate on the bill.
The measure would restore extended federal aid payments to about 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans that expired at the end of 2013. The extended aid traditionally kicks in after state benefits expire—usually after about 26 weeks.
But if the final bill does pass through the Senate, its future is unsure in the Republican-controlled House. House GOP leaders have already painted the proposal as fiscally irresponsible.
Supporters — including the White House — argue that the abrupt end to the benefits on Dec. 28 has plunged the long-term jobless into further desperation and will hurt the American economy as a whole if not reversed by a retroactive extension.