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Senate advances bill to renew expired jobless benefits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A White House-backed bill to renew expired jobless benefits for 2.2 million Americans cleared a Republican procedural hurdle on Thursday in the Democratic-led Senate.

On a 65-34 vote, the bipartisan measure advanced toward anticipated Senate passage, yet it will likely die when it reaches the Republican-led House of Representatives.

House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, has called the measure "unworkable," citing concerns by state administrators.

Boehner and other Republicans have also opposed the measure because it does not meet their demands that it include provisions to create jobs.

Democratic and Republican proponents reject the criticism and note that in the past such relief has been routinely extended with strong bipartisan support.

They also argue that renewing the benefits would help 2.2 million Americans as well as the U.S. economy by pumping more money into it. Relief to the unemployed averages $300 a week.

The measure would restore unemployment insurance for five months, retroactive to December 28, when it began to expire for those who have been out of work for at least six months.

Backers say during this extension, which would end in late May, Congress could explore ways to bolster the emergency unemployment program and consider new job creation measures.

The $10 billion cost of the measure would be covered by a number of proposed savings in the federal budget, and include a ban against anyone receiving jobless benefits if their income the previous year topped $1 million.

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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