The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to extend jobless benefits for thousands of unemployed Americans. The Democrats gave the measure the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster on the extremely divisive issue.

The legislation, which will extend benefits for Americans who have already used their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, now must pass final votes in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The unemployment benefits extension has been a hot topic in recent weeks because of the large number of formerly employed U.S. citizens who have fallen into long-term, chronic unemployment. The end-of-June U.S. unemployment rate was 9.5% but job growth has slowed substantially in recent weeks. Many former workers who lost their jobs earlier in the U.S. economic crisis have not been able to break back into the workforce, necessitating a decision on the benefits extension.

Republicans were not totally against the legislation, but were opposed to the idea of adding the $34 billion price tag to the nation’s budget deficit. Republicans supported the idea of offsetting the expense by making cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. Two Republican Senators, both from Maine, voted for the extension.

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