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Illinois senators split in jobless aid extension vote

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

WASHINGTON (AP) – Illinois’ two senators took opposing sides today as a measure to extend unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term unemployed passed a test vote in the Senate.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., voted yes and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., voted no on whether lawmakers should proceed to full consideration of the measure.

Durbin, speaking from the Senate floor, said 81,867 jobless Illinoisans had lost their benefits between Christmas and New Year’s Day. He said granting the additional benefits would let families feed themselves, pay their rent, keep their lights on and keep their places warm.

“It used to be bipartisan until the tea party takeover of the Republican Party,” he said.

Durbin said he had heard from Illinoisans who lost their benefits, including an Antioch man who is unemployed with two children and found it difficult to keep his family together “day after weary day looking for a job.”

Historically, Durbin said, the government “has stepped up when the private sector can not or will not.”

Sixty votes were needed to pass today’s preliminary hurdle, and Democrats garnered just enough as the measure passed 60-37.

Kirk voted no. He tipped his hand Monday in a tweet that indicated he would support additional benefits if an equivalent sum would be cut from the federal budget.

He wrote: “$6.4 billion for extended unemployment insurance should be offset with spending reductions.”

The Senate vote, a preliminary hurdle, was on whether to end debate on a motion to proceed to the actual bill.

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