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Jobless aid, tax bill stalls in Senate again

| June 18, 2010 9:00 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - In another stinging setback for President Barack Obama and Democrats controlling Congress, the Senate on Thursday rejected long-sought legislation to provide stimulus spending and a reprieve for doctors about to get hit with a big cut in their Medicare payments.

The failed measure, killed by a GOP filibuster, would have provided further jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, $24 billion in aid to cash-strapped state governments and the renewal of dozens of popular tax breaks for businesses and individuals.

Less than a week ago, Obama reissued a plea for more stimulus spending as insurance against another recession. But the measure instead fell victim to election-year anxiety over huge federal deficits despite being pared back by Democratic leaders.

The 56-40 vote late Thursday fell four votes short of the 60 required to break the GOP filibuster. Not a single Republican supported the measure even though nine GOP senators had supported even more costly legislation in a procedural vote just three months ago. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to filibuster the measure. Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with Democrats, also joined in the filibuster.

Efforts to woo a handful of Republican moderates like Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe flamed out despite daylong efforts and a move by Democrats on Wednesday to trim the bill. Further cuts were contemplated, though the talks were closely held.

There was some urgency to pass the jobless measure since by the end of the week, more than 900,000 people out of work for more than six months will have been ineligible to apply for continued benefits, according to the latest Labor Department estimates.