Millions of Americans stuck on the jobless rolls would receive an extension of unemployment benefits averaging $309 a week under a Senate bill that appears set to break free of Republican delaying tactics.
Democrats have stripped the unemployment insurance measure down to the bare essentials for Tuesday's vote, which is a do-over of a tally taken late last month.
With Democrat Carte Goodwin poised to claim the U.S. Senate seat of the late Robert Byrd, two Republicans will be needed to bypass delays by the opposition party. Republican moderates Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are expected to provide that key support.
The measure is expected to pass later Tuesday. The House would take it up Wednesday and then send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
If all goes as expected, about 2.5 million people will receive jobless benefits retroactively. Instead of being dropped from a federal program that extends benefits for those whose six months of state-paid benefits have run out, millions of others will continue to receive payments.
But first, Obama and his Democratic allies are pressing the issue for maximum political advantage, blaming Republicans for the impasse that halted unemployment checks for people unable to find work as the jobless rate remains close to 10 percent.
Obama launched a fresh salvo Monday, demanding the Senate act on the legislation — after a vote already had been scheduled — and blasting Republicans for the holdup.
Republicans say they do favor the benefits but are insisting they be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the government's $3.7 trillion budget.