The Senate voted 60-40 to end a filibuster on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to 2.5 million people on Tuesday afternoon. The 60th senator to vote was Carte Goodwin, the successor to West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd. Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also crossed party lines to vote for the bill.
During his Rose Garden remarks on Monday, President Barack Obama had urged Congress to extend the jobless benefits.
"For a long time, there has been a tradition under both Democratic and Republican presidents to offer relief to the unemployed," Obama said, according to The Associated Press. "That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republicans several times voted to extend emergency unemployment benefits."
Senate Democrats have been trying to extend benefits to the jobless since last month, when the vote was scheduled to occur, but senators in the Republican Party blocked the measure from coming to a vote several times. Many of the GOP senators oppose the legislation because they say it costs too much money.
"What the president isn't telling the American people is that many of us in the Senate are fighting to make sure our children and grandchildren aren't buried under a mountain of debt," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), according to The AP. "If we are going to extend unemployment benefits, then let's do it without adding to our record debt."
The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on the bill on Wednesday. Then, the jobless extension heads to the House for a vote, and then to the president for his signature. If the bill becomes law, 2.5 million Americans stand to receive an average of $309 per week in unemployment benefits retroactively.
For more WQXR coverage on this story, click here.