Reid still lacks key vote to replenish jobless benefits

WASHINGTON -- People without jobs whose unemployment payments have expired will need to wait a while longer for Congress to replenish the checks.

As lawmakers returned from a weeklong Fourth of July recess, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that the Senate will try to focus on jobs the next few weeks -- specifically, he said, "how to create them, how to save them and how to prevent another crisis like the one that killed them in the first place."

But Reid still does not have a 60th Senate vote at his disposal to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, a key part of the Democrats' jobs agenda.

If Congress does not act this week, 30,800 out-of-work Nevadans will have exhausted their jobless benefits, according to the Department of Labor. If no action is taken by the end of July, that number would grow to 39,200.

The legislation would restore benefits retroactively to June 2.

After falling a vote short of being able to overcome a Republican filibuster on June 30, Reid said he would revive the legislation when a successor is named for Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who had died three days earlier.

Reid expressed confidence that the new senator, sure to be a Democrat, would provide the all-important 60th vote that would allow Democrats to overcome opposition and pass the $33.9 billion bill that would extend payments through Nov. 30.

But West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has not yet announced an interim successor. In an interview with the Politico news site at a governors' meeting in Boston over the weekend, Manchin said he wanted the state Legislature to clarify the law on succession.

After returning to the state capital, Charleston, on Monday, Manchin said he will make the appointment by Sunday, and perhaps as early as Friday. That could give Reid an opening to schedule votes for next week.

Reid met with Manchin on July 1, the day Byrd's casket was placed in the Senate chamber for Capitol Hill officials to pay final respects, said Reid spokesman Tom Brede.

Manchin has said he will not appoint himself to the Senate but is interested in running for the seat if a special election can be arranged for this fall.

The unemployment benefits bill is controversial because Republicans, including Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, say the cost should be offset by cuts elsewhere, or risk deepening the U.S. debt.

Democrats counter that unemployment benefits customarily have been handled as emergency spending exempt from "pay as you go" rules.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760.