US Senate Republicans block new bid to restore jobless benefits

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a new bid by Democrats to restore long-term unemployment benefits for 1.7 million Americans, and make millionaires ineligible for such aid.

On a largely party-line vote of 58-40, Democrats fell short of the needed 60 votes to clear a Republican procedural hurdle against a three-month, retroactive extension of the relief that would be fully paid for and not increase the federal debt.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, expecting defeat, declared before the vote that his party would keep trying, saying, "We are not going to give up on the unemployed." Amid partisan gridlock over the issue, Democrats have accused Republicans of being insensitive to the jobless, and Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to jam through the legislation without amendments.

Democrats have taken the lead in trying to restore benefits since they expired on Dec. 28 for those who have been out of work for six months or more.

But Democrats have been unable to find common ground with Republicans, many of whom argue that what the unemployed really need is a job and that the jobless program needs to be reformed.

Democrats contend that benefits should be immediately restored while Congress examines how to best create new employment opportunities and reform the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program.