Washington (CNN) – Senate Democrats expect enough Republicans will vote with them on a procedural vote Monday for the Senate to take up an extension of unemployment benefits, two Democratic leadership aides told CNN. But the aides said they were less confident that they will have the 60 votes needed to pass the bill later this week.
Republicans, led by fiscal hawk Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, are not opposed to be the unemployment aid, but are philosophically against adding to the nation's soaring debt. Coburn and other likeminded lawmakers want Democrats to offset the nearly $10 billion price tag for the one month extension.
But Democrats have steadfastly refused, arguing that offsets would diminish the simulative affect of the spending on the sagging economy.
Of the 15 million people unemployed right now, about 200,000 saw their benefits expire on April 5th, and 1 million could see their benefits cut off by the end of the month if Congress doesn't act, warned Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.
"These are not deadbeats, these are not bums. These are people who are out of work, have been out of work a long time and struggled to find a job," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in a floor speech Monday.
The bill is the first order of business following the congressional recess. Lawmakers left town two weeks ago without approving the extension after Coburn blocked its passage. It is the second time Congress is moving a short-term extension of benefits because House and Senate Democrats can't agree on how to pay for a larger, longer-term bill.
Aides predict the debate will dominate Senate action this week, with a final vote coming Thursday or Friday.
While Democrats believe that GOP senators will appear as obstructionists, Republicans think their argument is actually tapping into voters' frustration that Washington, controlled by Democrats, is out of control on spending.
"Democrats can no longer hide behind the argument of good intentions when the results threaten our very stability as a nation. We must get a handle on the deficit and the debt," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. "This is the issue we will focus our attention on in the weeks and months ahead."
Durbin accused Republicans of being hypocritical, since they approved deficit spending for bank bailouts, war costs, and other priorities of the Bush administration but now are insisting on paying for unemployment benefits.
"Do we have the presence of mind to do this in a way that doesn't hurt our children," Coburn said during a floor speech. "We're debating whether to take from those who come after us and give to those today."