Washington (CNN) - A nearly $140 billion bill to extend unemployment benefits and a host of expiring tax cuts cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate on a vote of 66-34, setting up passage of the bill possibly later in the day.
Eight Republicans joined with all Democratic senators except for Ben Nelson of Nebraska, on the vote to end debate on the bill, which still must be merged with a companion bill in the House.
One Republican senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, said he voted yes to "keep the process moving" but said he might vote against the final bill.
In addition to extending unemployment payments and assistance for the unemployed to buy health insurance, the bill staves off scheduled cuts in the payments doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.
The bill extends a wide range of tax cuts that were set to expire. They include a tax cut for teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pocket; a tax cut for small businesses that pay workers called to active military duty; research and developments tax cuts; and tax cuts for restaurant and small business owners to depreciate improvements in their businesses.
Many Republicans opposed the bill because of its high price tag which was only partially off-set. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the bill would spend more than Democrats promise will be saved over ten years if their health care overhaul is passed.
"There's $100 billion in the bill that's on the Senate floor right now that's not paid for," McConnell said before the vote. "So whatever savings they allege will occur under their health care bill over the next 10 years is going to be gone as soon as this bill passes."
Democrats argued that the spending does not need to be offset because much of it is emergency spending to respond to the economic downturn.
Should have been enough tax cuts to make the GOP happy – but let's look at the history. Paygo?
George W. Bush became president in 2000, and the law was allowed to expire in 2002. Many Republicans opposed it because they feared it could be used to block tax cuts.
However, the annual budget deficit returned in 2002, just as the rule expired. Now Republicans forget that the Pay-Go bill they voted against doesn't go in to effect until the 2011 budget...
Paygo – GOP allowed it to expire then and now – voted against it!
If the GOP do not want people to get Unemployment Insurance, then they should stop shipping jobs to China.
So now the federal government is coming to the aid of local school boards who are not able to come up with enough money to provide their teachers with necessary teaching supplies and aids. Notice the tax break for teachers who spend their own money for supplies? My niece teaches in Pennsylvania and she spends quite a bit of her own money. My question - why do we need to use tax money to pay for the local boards' incompetence? Why aren't we rewarding the boards that take care of their teachers instead of "bailing out" those who cannot? Or is this just another way to pander to the teachers' union(s)?