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Jobless bill heads for vote on passage next week in Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation backed by President Barack Obama to restore jobless benefits for 2.3 million Americans advanced on Thursday toward anticipated passage next week in the Democratic-led Senate.

On mostly party-line votes of 60-36 and 61-35, the bill cleared the last two in a series of Republican procedural hurdles in recent weeks, setting up a vote on passage on Monday.

The action came after Democrats refused to let Republicans offer an amendment to the measure, which prompted Republicans to refuse to agree to a vote on passage on Thursday.

The bipartisan legislation seems certain to die once it reaches the Republican-led House of Representatives.

House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans oppose the bill, citing implementation concerns. They also complain that the bill does not include any provisions to create jobs.

Bill supporters reject the criticism. They note that the emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed - those who have been out of work for at least six months - have been routinely extended in the past with strong bipartisan support.

The bill's chief sponsors, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, said they will seek to build support for the measure in the House next week.

"I told my staff to get me a meeting with Speaker Boehner," Heller told reporters, suggesting that perhaps the Senate and House could reach some sort of a compromise.

"This is about people who are in a really difficult situation," Reed said, noting many have difficulty paying bills for food and rent. "We hope the House takes it up quickly."

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)

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