Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
President Obama on Thursday signed a bill to renew jobless benefits for roughly 2.5 million Americans whose unemployment help expired in June.
Earlier Thursday, the House voted
272 to 152 to approve the measure after months of partisan wrangling. Ten Democrats voted against the bill, while 31 Republicans crossed party lines to support it. The Senate passed the bill Wednesday.
Benefits will be paid retroactively to the time they expired and will continue through November. People who have been out of work for up to 99 weeks will be eligible for the extension. This is the eighth time Congress has extended federal funding for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the country's economic downturn.
Of the 13 million Americans without full-time jobs, 7 million have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks.
The primary dispute over the bill came from a disagreement over whether the $34 billion cost should be paid for through deficit spending, as Senate Democrats argued was necessary, or covered by unspent stimulus funds, as Republicans wanted.
Moments before the House vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Republicans are only committed to balancing budgets when they're not in charge.
"It is really sad that it has to come to this," she said. "While they increased the deficit by trillions of dollars, while we lost jobs, when they took us to a brink of financial crisis of our financial industry, when they took us deep into recession, when they took us deep into deficit, they want to return to the exact same agenda. We are not going back."
But Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said continued deficit spending by the Democrats only hurts the country more than it was hurt by the Bush administration's spending. "Yes, there was irresponsible fiscal policy," he said. "Why in the world would you want to exacerbate and continue that bad policy? Republicans have learned their lesson. It seems that lesson has not yet been learned on the other side of the aisle."
In addition to extending unemployment benefits, the bill also extends eligibility for the home buyer tax credit. People who signed a contract on a home before April 30 can claim the credit if they close before October 1.