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Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] crossed the aisle last night and gave Republicans the final vote they needed to block the Democrats' attempt to extend unemployment insurance. The Democrats had the support of 59% of the Senate for their extension bill, but Nelson's defection allowed the Republicans to sustain a filibuster of the Democrats' attempt to move the bill to the floor for an up-or down vote. Breaking a filibusters requires a 3/5ths majority, or 60 votes.

Since Nelson is now standing between millions of unemployed Americans struggling to stay afloat until the extension is passed (most likely in mid July) and the immediate relief Democrats are trying to provide, it's worth being aware of his reasoning. Below is a long excerpt from a statement he released the day before he blocked the Senate's last attempt to pass an extension:

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Another UI Vote Tonight?

July 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Iowa Independent is reporting that Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] thinks another vote in the Senate on the unemployment insurance extension is possible tonight: "Another vote on a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed may come to the floor of the Senate as early as Thursday night, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa."

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For the fourth time in a month, Senate Democrats on Wednesday night failed to win enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster of a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits (H.R. 4213). After the failed vote, the Senate adjourned for recess until July 12th.

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Just One Vote

June 30, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A single senator now stands between millions of unemployed Americans and the extension of unemployment insurance benefits they need in order to feed their families and gas up their cars to get to job interviews.

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The National Employment Law Project and the Center for American Progress are out with a new report today that explains just what a historical anomaly Congress's failure to extend unemployment insurance benefits is given the dismal state of the jobs market.

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It's going to be a big day in both chambers of Congress on the issue we've been tracking steadily on this blog for weeks -- extending unemployment insurance benefits for the millions of unemployed individuals who have had their payments cut off since late May. Here's what you need to know to follow today's votes.

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The House today failed to pass a stand-alone bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits (H.R. 5618). The final vote was 261-155. 277 votes (a 2/3rds majority of those present and voting) were needed under the suspension of the rules procedure that was used by the Democrats in order to avoid Republican obstruction tactics.

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The House of Representatives this afternoon is scheduled to pass, under the expedited suspension of the rules procedure, a new, stand-alone bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits. The bill is H.R. 5618, the "Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2010." It was introduced yesterday by Rep. Jim McDermott [D, WA-7] and has one co-sponsor -- the powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Sander Levin [D, MI-12].

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Just a quick note here regarding the new, stand-alone unemployment insurance bill in the Senate and what its introduction last week means for the prospects of getting an extension passed. To be clear, the fact that it has been introduced does not in any way indicate that the congressional leadership intends to move on it. Any senator can introduce any bill on any issue they choose. They don't need consent from anyone else -- they simply draft it and drop it in a box. Senate workers then assign it a number and file it away with the tens of thousands of other bills that have been introduced this session. The vast majority of bills in Congress never go anywhere in the legislative process, and only about 4% of the bills that are introduced in a given session become law.

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The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R.4213), which would have extended unemployment insurance benefits, closed some tax loopholes and more, was officially abandoned last week after the Democrats failed to overcome a Republican filibuster for the third time. As a result, over a million uninsured people have had their unemployment insurance benefits cut off since they expired on June 2. But while the Democrats may have lost hope of ever passing H.R. 4213, they have recently introduced a new bill for the sole purpose of extending unemployment benefits.

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With the Senate's failure yesterday to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have lost their job due to the financial crisis and are facing an extremely dire jobs situation, people are asking if President Obama can step in and use his executive power to do something. The short answer is no. Here's why.

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Despite shaving another $22 billion off the price tag of H.R. 4213, the unemployment insurance, jobs and tax extenders bill, the Democrats this afternoon failed for the third time in three weeks to defeat a Republican filibuster. As a result, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] is giving up and moving onto other legislative matters. "We can't pass it until we get some Republicans... It's up to them," Reid said.

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After consulting with lobbyists yesterday to see what it would take to win a few Republican votes, Senate Dems are back with their latest revision of the H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has already filed cloture on the revised bill, and according to the congressional record, "a vote on cloture will occur on Friday, June 25, 2010."

Cloture is a procedural motion to overcome a filibuster that requires 60 votes to pass. According to reports, the Democrats have been within two votes of passing the cloture motion for several days now. This latest revision is designed to shore up support among Democratic and Republican moderates to win those crucial two votes. At this point, all indications are that it hasn't worked.

So what has changed in the latest revision?

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As I've been writing about on this blog for weeks, Senate Democrats are trying to pass a bill (H.R. 4213) combining an unemployment insurance extension, stimulative tax credits, state aid for Medicaid, and tax hikes on hedge funds and oil companies. They need at least two Republican votes in order to break a filibuster, but, so far, no Republicans are going along with them. CongressDaily ($) reports this morning that the Dems are changing up their strategy. Rather than trying to strike a deal with the GOP, they are going to work directly with the infamous fourth branch of government -- corporate lobbyists:

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Since late May, the Senate has been stymied by a piece of must-pass legislation, H.R. 4213, that combines a 6-month unemployment insurance extension, billions in tax credits designed to protect jobs, billions in aid for states struggling to pay for Medicaid, and tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations. The bill, which has been pared down several times already, costs $55 billion, which failed roll call after failed roll call has shown to be just too much for Senate moderates and conservatives to swallow this close to the midterms.

But the Democrats are committed to passing the unemployment insurance extension, and they are once again paring down the bill to round up support among moderates and overcome a Republican-led filibuster. According to CQ Politics, here's what they are looking at now for savings:

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