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House votes to extend unemployment benefits

From Ted Barrett

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Stay with CNN-USA for comprehensive analysis and ongoing coverage of developments in the run-up to the weekend's presidential caucuses in Michigan, Washington and Maine.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thirty-nine Republicans in the House of Representatives crossed party lines to join Democrats in approving a measure that would extend the unemployment benefits for about 375,000 people whose regular benefits have run out for six-months.

The vote may be little more than symbolic, lawmakers from both parties predicted, because opposition from GOP leaders is expected to prevent the measure from ever becoming law, which means unemployed workers are unlikely to receive the benefits.

The measure, which would extend the temporary federal unemployment insurance benefits, was attached to an unrelated bill dealing with community block grants.

Democrats hailed the vote as evidence that there is majority support in the GOP-controlled House for the extension -- an issue Democrats have pushed for months.

But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, dismissed the vote as a "clever political stunt" designed to give the Democrats fodder for the campaign season.

"Sometimes people vote for political reasons," DeLay said about the GOP defections. "It's more important to provide jobs than unemployment."

A Republican aide said the extension was not needed because the economy is improving and the unemployment rate is down.

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