Senate Votes $10 Billion Unemployment, Highways

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WASHINGTON – The Senate passed a $10 billion measure to extend unemployment benefits and provide funding for highway programs on Tuesday.

Senator Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who wanted Democrats to find ways to finance the bill without adding to the deficit, had filibustered the bill for days.

The bill passed by a 78-19 vote, and President Obama signed it into law late Tuesday.

"During these difficult economic times, supporting American workers, their families and our small businesses must be everyone's focus," the president said in a statement.

The House passed the measure last week. The bill provides a month-long extension to allow Congress to pass a pending bill with a much higher price tag, which will extend the benefits for a year.

An estimated 200,000 people would have lost federal unemployment benefits this week, according to the National Employment Law Project.

The legislation extends several additional layers of benefits added since 2008 because of the continuing recession.

Jobless people normally get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits and 20 more weeks in states with higher unemployment rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wants to pass a $100-billion-plus measure that would extend unemployment benefits and provide higher Medicare payments to doctors, aid to state Medicaid budgets and extend expired tax breaks to businesses and individuals.

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AP contributed to this report.

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