WASHINGTON — Once again, a stubborn Senate Republican is blocking speedy passage of a stopgap bill to extend jobless benefits, saying its $9 billion cost should not be added to the nation’s $12.7 trillion debt.

This time it’s Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who’s insisting that the measure be “paid for” and not financed with borrowed money. “What we are doing is stealing future opportunity from our children,” Coburn said Thursday.

The clash comes less than a month after Republicans abandoned a similar battle that led to an interruption in unemployment benefits eligibility for some people and a two-day furlough for about 2,000 Transportation Department employees.

Last month, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., blocked a similar extension of jobless benefits, but Republicans ended up on the losing end of a public relations battle and Bunning backed away.

Unlike the prior battle, this time there’s no immediate danger of jobless people becoming ineligible for benefits. They don’t expire until April 5, leaving time to work through the problem. But lawmakers are also antsy to go home for a two-week spring recess.

The House passed the stopgap bill last week.

Democratic leaders say jobless benefits are an emergency and don’t need to conform to the new pay-as-you-go budget law, which requires new benefit programs to be offset with spending cuts or tax increases so they don’t increase the federal deficit.


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