The Democratic controlled House passed a bill June 12 extending unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks in most states and to 52 weeks in states with official unemployment rates of 6 percent or more.

49 Republicans joined Democrats to give the bill a 274-137 vote majority. All 137 opponents were Republicans.

Opponents said unemployment rates were not high enough to justify the extension while proponents of the measure pointed out that the rate of increase in joblessness in May was the largest increase in 22 years.

The deliberations that resulted in passage of the bill followed a two-day lobbying effort by many of the nation’s unions that involved millions of e-mails and phone calls to members of Congress. It also followed a June 11 vote on a special, no-debate measure put forward by Democratic leaders that would have veto-proofed the bill. The measure fell just three votes short of the 282 votes it needed for passage.

The extended benefits passed by the House on June 12 are also included in the Iraq war funding bill. President Bush, however, has already vowed to veto any war funding bill that has anything in it other than funds for the war.

Arguing for passage of the bill during a press conference June 10, AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel said, “The economy is in free fall and working people are struggling. The share of all the unemployed who are jobless more than six months is 18 percent, and there are two jobless workers searching per every job available.”

The bill, which is expected to be killed by a Bush veto, would have made the extension in benefits available to workers who exhausted their benefits as far back as last November. Each month this year, according to Samuels, 200,000 additional workers have used up their benefits by reaching the end of their 26th week.

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