Congress has approved extending federal unemployment benefits to Americans struggling to find work.  All of Idaho’s congressional delegation voted against the plan, largely due to concerns that it will increase the national debt.

The U.S. House approved the plan Thursday on a largely party-line 272 to 152 vote.  It was signed later in the day by President Barack Obama.

The $34 billion plan would keep extended federal unemployment benefits through the end of November.  In Idaho, approximately 10,000 people could start receiving unemployment payments again.  Eligible individuals could receive payments for the six weeks in which extended federal benefits had lapsed.

Rep. Walt Minnick was one of 10 Democrats to oppose the plan.  “I am absolutely opposed to digging the deficit hole deeper,” Minnick told earlier this month when speaking about the legislation.  He called the deficit the biggest single threat to the country, and that Congress could have found ways to cover the cost of assisting people who are out of work.  “I want to help them, but I want that help to be paid for,” Minnick said.

Minnick and Republican Rep. Mike Simpson have said existing money from the 2009 stimulus plan could have paid for the extended unemployment benefits.  Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, have offered similar alternatives in explaining their no votes on the plan.

The plan approved by Congress removes an additional $25 weekly payment that had been on weekly federal unemployment payments that was part of the 2009 stimulus plan.

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