Weather delays U.S. Senate vote on unemployment benefit extension

Washington (CNN) — With more than a dozen lawmakers absent due to travel delays caused by bad weather, the U.S. Senate postponed until Tuesday a key procedural vote on a politically charged proposal to extend long-term unemployment insurance affecting some 1.3 million Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid received unanimous approval for a postponement from both parties just before the chamber was due to hold the test vote on the first partisan showdown of the New Year on Monday evening.

A razor-close margin was expected and the projected outcome of the vote to move ahead with debate was too close to call, senior aides from both parties said.

The Senate will now take up the measure on Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET.

Extending benefits is a top political priority for congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama, who is trying to make income equality a centerpiece of his second term.

Many Republicans argue a $6.4 billion extension would hurt the economy and act as a disincentive to job creation. Others members of the GOP have signaled they might back one if the cost is offset elsewhere in the budget.

Midterms in play

Big moments on Capitol Hill from here on out should be viewed through the lens of next November’s midterm elections, especially in the Senate where Republicans are aiming to retake control of the chamber.

All 55 members of the Democratic caucus are expected to support the unemployment extension measure, but it was unclear if enough Republicans would join them to get the 60 votes required for the procedural motion to pass.

Democratic aides doubted there would be at least five Republicans who would vote with them, though they acknowledged Republicans could vote to advance the bill even if down the line they decided to block it.

However, Republican aides said they thought there was a real possibility there would be enough GOP votes to take up the bill.

While the aides couldn’t say exactly which Senators might vote “yes,” they thought there could be moderate Republicans or Senators from high unemployment states to give it the necessary votes.

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