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Senate votes to renew expired jobless benefits

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

The 61-38 vote set the stage for anticipated Senate passage of the measure on Thursday. But the bipartisan bill seems certain to die once 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 also oppose the measure because it does not include provisions to create jobs and strengthen the emergency unemployment program.

Backers of the legislation reject the criticism, noting that such relief has been routinely renewed in the past with strong bipartisan support.

The measure would restore benefits for five months, retroactive to December 28, when they began to expire for those who have generally 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 federal program and consider new job creation measures.

The $10 billion cost of restoring the relief 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.

The National Association of State Workforce Agencies wrote Republican leaders last month that the legislation could be a costly administrative burden and take months to implement.

The Senate bill has 10 co-sponsors, five Democrats and five Republicans. They contend that problems can be resolved and that the benefits must be restored to help struggling Americans.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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