The Senate agreed to cloture on a five-month extension of emergency unemployment insurance benefits on Thursday on a surprising 65-34 vote. Ten Republicans joined with Democrats to move the bill forward, more than the five who were needed.
The vote puts the measure just an inch further down the long path to President Obama's desk. The Senate still has to take up the bill for final passage and then it heads to the House where prospects for passage do not look promising.
Advocates will attempt to get unanimous consent on the measure on Friday, but that looks unlikely. Absent that agreement by all 100 senators, a vote for final passage will come early next week. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nevada, who have lead the unemployment insurance talks say they are confident it will pass the Senate at that point.
Thursday's cloture vote was supported by all seven Republican senators who cosponsored the bill, as well as Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Bob Corker of Tennessee. But the vote merely allows the bill to move forward, and it's unclear how many of those members will vote for final passage, when just 51 yeas are needed.
The higher the vote count on the final bill, the more pressure it will put on House Republicans to take up the Senate measure, supporters say.
The Senate bill would extend unemployment insurance benefits for five months, including retroactive benefits for the estimated 2 million Americans who have stopped receiving checks since the program expired Dec. 28. In other words, the extension will expire for all beneficiaries in May.
Correction: This story originally misstated the number of Republicans who voted to advance the bill. The number is 10.
This post has been updated.