A Senate bid to extend long-term unemployment benefits failed to clear a pair of procedural votes on Tuesday, leaving the fate of emergency government assistance to more than 1 million people in limbo.
The votes came after fits and starts in negotiations involving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and eight Republican Senators.
All parties said they hoped talks would continue.
Senators have struggled to settle on a time-frame for any extension or the cost of such a proposal.
Negotiations have centered around finding ways to pay for renewing benefits that expired in December, which could cost anywhere from $6 billion to $25 billion depending on how long they would be extended.
Three-month and 11-month proposals were floated.
The recession-era program that underwrote those benefits was not renewed when it expired in the last week of December. Federal checks kick in when state unemployment benefits are exhausted.
President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are pushing for an extension, saying to do nothing would not only negatively impact the long-term unemployed but also hurt the economy.
Republicans say that any extension must be paid for through other spending cuts.
The Republican-led House has not taken up any proposal to renew extended unemployment benefits.
According to a Quinnipiac University survey released last week, voters supported by a 58 percent-37 percent margin extending unemployment benefits for three months. There was a partisan divide: Support was 83 percent-13 percent among Democrats and 54 percent-41 percent among Independent voters, with Republicans opposed 54 percent-42 percent..
If a candidate for Congress supports extending jobless benefits, a third of those questioned said they’d be more likely to vote for that candidate, with 24 percent percent saying less likely and four in 10 saying it wouldn’t affect their vote.