Republican Senator Snowe Calls for Extending Unemployment Aid

A Republican senator who helped kill jobs legislation that would have extended U.S. unemployment benefits called today for approving the aid in a separate bill.

Senator Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans who are losing jobless benefits every week deserve our attention.”

Democrats wooed Snowe for weeks as they sought Republican support to approve the jobs bill, which also would have provided aid to state governments, raised taxes on buyout firm managers, extended municipal bond subsidies and revived a group of expired business tax cuts.

The bill was derailed yesterday on a procedural vote. With 60 needed to advance the measure, 57 senators voted to proceed, 41 opposed the effort. Democrats control the Senate with 59 votes. No Republican senators backed the measure; Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the lone Democrat to vote against it.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said lawmakers would move on to other matters after the bill was blocked.

Snowe, in voting against the measure, said she opposed provisions intended to make it harder for lawyers and other professions to avoid Social Security and Medicare taxes by organizing what are known as S corporations. She said the provision was poorly drawn and would have hit too many unintended targets, including some of her constituents.

So far more than 1 million unemployed Americans have lost their jobless benefits during the dispute over the legislation, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

‘The Wrong Party’

“We appreciate her concerns, but the fact is that she is sending the letter to the wrong person and to the wrong party,” said Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman. “It was her party that killed an extension of the benefits yesterday and nothing in the letter can change that fact.”

The union AFSCME, along with the advocacy group Americans United for Change, said today they would begin running television ads next week in Maine criticizing Snowe on the issue.

The Senate plans next week to take up legislation overhauling the nation’s financial regulation system, Reid said today. Lawmakers also will consider a small-business tax bill before leaving Washington for a week-long July 4 recess.

The House gave final approval yesterday to a bill postponing a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, a provision that also was part of the defeated jobs bill. Snowe pointed to that bill, signed into law today by President Barack Obama, in her letter to Reid.

“It is clear that there are no insurmountable hurdles in trying to ease the challenge of prolonged unemployment for our fellow citizens,” Snowe said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net.

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