Published: Jul 20, 2010 11:12 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 20, 2010 8:12 AM EDT

     WASHINGTON (AP) - Millions of people stuck on the jobless rolls
would receive an extension of unemployment benefits averaging $309
a week under a Senate bill that appears set to break free of a
Republican filibuster.
      Democrats have stripped the unemployment insurance measure down
to the bare essentials for Tuesday's vote, which is a do-over of a
tally taken late last month.
      With West Virginia Democrat Carte Goodwin poised to claim the
seat of the late Robert Byrd, two Republicans will be needed to
vault the measure over the filibuster hurdle. Maine GOP moderates
Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are expected to provide the key
votes to create a filibuster-breaking tally on a key procedural
test.
      The measure is expected to pass later Tuesday. The House would
take it up Wednesday and then send it to President Barack Obama for
his signature.
      If all goes as expected, about 2.5 million people will receive
jobless benefits retroactively. Instead of being dropped from a
federal program that extends benefits for those whose six months of
state-paid benefits have run out, millions of others will continue
to receive payments.
      But first, Obama and his Democratic allies are pressing the
issue for maximum political advantage, blaming Republicans for the
impasse that halted unemployment checks for people unable to find
work as the jobless rate remains close to 10 percent.
      Obama launched a fresh salvo Monday, demanding the Senate act on
the legislation - after a vote already had been scheduled - and
blasting Republicans for the holdup.
      "The same people who didn't have any problem spending hundreds
of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans
are now saying we shouldn't offer relief to middle-class
Americans," Obama said.
      Republicans say they do favor the benefits but are insisting
they be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the government's
$3.7 trillion budget. After initially feeling heat this winter when
a lone GOP senator, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, briefly blocked a
benefits extension in February, the GOP has grown increasingly
comfortable opposing the legislation.
      The providing of additional weeks of jobless benefits in the
midst of bad times has been regarded as routine, and the latest
cycle of additional benefits began in 2008, the last year of George
W. Bush's administration.
      "For a long time, there has been a tradition under both
Democratic and Republican presidents to offer relief to the
unemployed," Obama said. "That was certainly the case under my
predecessor, when Republicans several times voted to extend
emergency unemployment benefits."
      But with conservative voters and tea party activists up in arms
about the deficit, conservative Republicans have adopted a harder
line that has caused three interruptions of jobless benefits.
      "What the president isn't telling the American people is that
many of us in the Senate are fighting to make sure our children and
grandchildren aren't buried under a mountain of debt," said Sen.
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "If we are going to extend unemployment
benefits, then let's do it without adding to our record debt."