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UPDATED: Lembke Ends Filibuster Blocking Jobless Benefits

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) __ A Missouri state senator has agreed to stop blocking a vote on whether to extend federally-funded jobless benefits that expired for thousands of Missouri residents, vowing to instead try to stop hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus money.

Republican Sen. Jim Lembke told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he will end his filibuster against the reauthorization of the benefits that expired for about 10,000 Missouri residents on Saturday. Lembke said he instead will try to block the state from spending as much as $400 million of federal stimulus act money on such things as home energy efficiency programs for low-income residents and a study about high-speed rail
service.

“My priority in this whole thing was certainly not an attack on the unemployed in Missouri but on the federal government and their overspending and their continuing to put us into ever-spiraling debt that is going to crush our nation,” said Lembke, of St. Louis. Lembke has led a coalition of four Republican senators that has come under increased pressure from Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to renew Missouri’s participation in a federal program that provides 20 additional weeks of jobless benefits to people who have been out of work for a year and a half.  Until Missouri’s eligibility for the program recently ended, no state that joined the federal program had later voluntarily quit it.

Lembke said the unemployment legislation, which already has passed the House, could come to a vote this week in the Senate. That could allow Missouri to retroactively issue unemployment benefits to the people cut off from the program. It also could allow benefits to flow to an additional 24,000 people who are projected to become eligible or the extended jobless benefits during the next nine months.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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