The legislation at the heart of the maneuvering would restore benefits averaging $256 weekly to an estimated 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans who were cut off when the program expired Dec. 28.
Duration of federal coverage generally ranges from 14 to 47 weeks, depending on the level of unemployment within individual states. The three-month cost to the Treasury is estimated at $6.4 billion.
Without action by Congress, hundreds of thousands more will feel the impact in the months ahead as their state-funded benefits expire, generally after 26 weeks.
Democrats had appeared poised to blame Republicans for blocking the legislation, and the outcome of Tuesday’s vote appeared to catch them off-guard.
The six Republicans who voted to overcome a filibuster were Dean Heller of Nevada, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Heller, Coats and Portman all represent states with unemployment above the national average of 7 percent.
Coats, for one, immediately made clear that his vote came with conditions attached. He said he opposes the measure as drafted and would vote against it on final passage if Reid “again obstructs senators from offering amendments.”
The Indiana Republican said he believes any extension in benefits should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget to prevent deficits from rising. He said he also favors provisions to help “put Americans back to work,” comments similar to those made by McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner during the day.
Separately, a half dozen Republicans swung behind a proposal to pay for a renewal of benefits by preventing immigrants who live in the country illegally from claiming an income tax break that goes to some families with children.
The same proposal would reverse a provision approved in December to slow the annual increase in veterans retirement benefits for recipients under age 62.