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WASHINGTON (AP) — With a new face and a 60th vote for breaking a Republican filibuster, Senate Democrats are preparing to restore jobless checks for 2.5 million people whose benefits ran out during a congressional standoff over deficit spending. President Barack Obama says, "It's time to do what's right."
But first, Obama and his Democratic allies are pressing for maximum political advantage, blaming Republicans for an impasse that halted unemployment checks averaging $309 a week for those whose eligibility had expired.
Obama launched a fresh salvo on Monday, demanding that the Senate act on the legislation — after a vote already had been scheduled for Tuesday — and blasting Republicans for the holdup.
"The same people who didn't have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn't offer relief to middle-class Americans," Obama said.
Republicans say they do favor the benefits but are insisting that they be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the government's $3.7 trillion budget. After initially feeling heat when a lone GOP senator, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, briefly blocked a benefits extension back in February, the GOP has grown increasingly comfortable in opposing the legislation.
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