(USA TODAY) - A long-debated proposal to extend unemployment benefits through November won approval in the House of Representatives Thursday - setting the stage for what is likely to become a top campaign issue as the November midterm election nears.
A day after the Senate advanced the measure, the House voted 272-152 to send the benefits extension to the White House for President Obama's signature. But the debate over the cost the legislation - and the state of the nation's economy - continues to dominate House and Senate races across the country.
The legislation extends benefits for those who have already used up their standard 26 weeks of unemployment, which Democrats said is necessary to help millions of out-of-work Americans. Republicans say they also support extending the benefits but argue the government should not borrow the $34 billion needed to pay for it.
Democrats blamed Republicans for slowing progress on the legislation. "The House acted in May, but for six weeks Senate Republicans blocked unemployment insurance," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Ways and Means Committee. "They stood not on the side of, but in the way of millions of Americans."
Republicans continued to hammer away on rising deficits.
"The other side says that these unemployment benefits stretching to almost two years are needed and must be added to the $13 trillion debt, even as they claim their trillion-dollar stimulus plan has been a success at creating millions of jobs," said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., according to the Associated Press. "It makes you wonder if they're looking at the same jobs data as the rest of us."
Thirty-one Republicans joined with a majority of Democrats to support the bill and 10 Democrats broke ranks and voted against it, according to the official roll call.