WASHINGTON --- Nearly 16,000 Iowans will see unemployment benefits restored after the U.S. Senate cleared a key procedural hurdle and was prepared to vote for an extension Tuesday, overcoming weeks of Republican opposition.
The Senate voted, 60-40, to cut off debate and was expected to vote later Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, voted for the extension, while Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, voted against it. Illinois Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Roland Burris voted for it.
"There is a way to extend federal unemployment benefits without running up the deficit, but the Democratic leadership of the Senate is refusing to do it that way," Grassley said.
He said Iowans are telling him "loud and clear" they want the deficit lowered.
Republicans had proposed extending benefits but wanted to pay for it by using money from President Barack Obama's $862 billion economic stimulus program to pay for it. Republicans say it's had limited effectiveness, if any.
Democrats objected, however, saying the stimulus is needed to boost the economy, pointing to Congressional Budget Office reports saying it's saved millions of jobs.
Roxanne Conlin, Grassley's Democratic opponent in the fall election, criticized Grassley's vote.
"Extending unemployment benefits is a key ingredient to get this country moving forward and helping Iowans stay in their homes and feed their families," she said.
The extension comes on the same day Iowa Workforce Development announced the unemployment rate in Iowa remained unchanged in June from the month before, at 6.8 percent.
The pool of unemployed workers in the state was at 113,600 in June, down 1,200 people from the month before. That's still 14,100 more, however, than it was in June 2009.
Kerry Koonce, a spokesperson for Workforce Development, said the retroactive payment of benefits to the 15,800 workers who were cut off in June will pump $27 million into the state's economy.
A lump sum payment will be made to those who had benefits cut off June 2, she said. The payments are likely to arrive late next week.
Iowa law provides 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and there are three other tiers available, with a maximum 73 weeks of unemployment benefits possible.
People who have exhausted their 73 weeks are not affected by the extension.