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Coats, Senate advance jobless benefits revival

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., was among six Republicans who voted with the Democratic majority in the Senate on Tuesday to advance legislation for extending long-term unemployment benefits.

The Senate voted 60-37 to limit debate on the bill. At least 60 votes were required for the measure to proceed to a final vote, likely this week. Coats said he will vote against the legislation if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., prevents senators from offering amendments.

“I can’t support the proposal that was brought before us,” Coats said in a floor speech broadcast by C-SPAN. “But I can support going forward to discuss that proposal, to look at the alternatives, to offer up my own amendments and to see if our thoughts, our ideas, prevail. And I’m hoping that’s what will happen.”

The bill would restore between 14 weeks and 47 weeks of unemployment compensation for 1.3 million Americans who lost them when long-term jobless insurance expired Dec. 28. Benefits average $256 a week for recipients, according to the Associated Press.

The legislation would spend $6.4 billion through March. Coats and other Republicans argued that the cost should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

Coats said he favors any of three options: delaying the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which requires people to obtain medical insurance this year; preventing people who receive Social Security disability benefits from also collecting unemployment insurance; and curbing fraudulent claims for child tax credits through better methods of verifying applicants’ identities. Other Republicans who favored advancing the legislation to a final vote were Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

President Barack Obama urged the Senate to approve the jobless benefits extension during a White House speech Tuesday. He said jobless Americans need aid as they hunt for work. In a statement issued shortly after the Senate vote, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he has previously informed the White House that any measure to renew unemployment benefits “should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.