Congressional allies of President Bush scraped up just enough enemies of workers on Capitol Hill June 11 to ensure that a Democratic move to extend unemployment benefits fell short by three votes.

Democrats brought the measure to a vote under a special format that required a two thirds vote for passage. They used the procedure because passage would have prevented a veto by Bush.

Although a huge majority in Congress approved the measure with a 279-144 vote, the tally was three short of the 282 votes needed to make Bush administration opposition irrelevant.

The vote followed an unprecedented effort by the nation’s unions and their members including millions of e-mails and phone calls to members of the House, urging them to extend the jobless benefits. The bill would have extended benefits from their present 26 weeks to 39 weeks in most states and to 52 weeks in states where the official jobless rate is 6 percent or more.

Sources on Capitol Hill say the bill could be introduced again as early as June 12 or June 13.

Supporters in Congress say the jobless benefit extension is by no means a dead issue.

The extension is still included in the bill that funds the war in Iraq although Bush has already vowed to veto any Iraq War bill that includes funding for anything other than the war.

Bush said that joblessness is not high enough to justify extending unemployment benefits and, like Republican presidential candidate John McCain, contends the economy is basically healthy.

Critics point out that last month’s jump in the unemployment rate was the worst in more than 20 years and that the increase in joblessness comes on top of evaporating wages, inflationary price hikes for food and fuel, a credit crisis, declining value of homes and an affordable housing and mortgage crisis.

PAI contributed to this story

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