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WASHINGTON (AP) — The new year looks a lot like the old one in the Senate, with Democrats scratching for votes to pass an agenda they share with President Barack Obama, and Republicans decidedly unenthusiastic about supporting legislation without changes.

At the dawn of the 2014 election year, the issue is unemployment benefits, and a White House-backed bill to renew benefits that lapsed last month for the long-term jobless.

The three-month measure is the leading edge of a Democratic program that also includes raising the minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations, and enacting other measures designed to demonstrate sympathy with those who suffered during the worst recession in decades and a subsequent long, slow recovery.

With bad weather preventing more than a dozen senators from traveling to Washington on Monday evening, a showdown vote was postponed until Tuesday.

But not before Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics.

"It is transparent that this is a political exercise, not a real effort to try to fix the problem," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a protest followed immediately by Majority Leader Harry Reid's agreement to delay the vote.

It was unclear whether the delay would affect the fate of the bill.

Democratic supporters of the three-month extension of jobless benefits need 60 votes to advance the White House-backed bill, and their chances hinge on securing backing from at least four Republicans in addition to Sen. Dean Heller of high-unemployment Nevada.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters she would vote to advance the bill, in the hope that Republicans would have a chance to offer changes that would offset the cost and prevent deficits from rising.

Other Republicans weren't as optimistic.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said he would vote the other way. "Unfortunately, this bill is being jammed through, has not been considered in committee and will not be able to be amended on the floor," he said. "Spending $6.5 billion in three months without trying to find ways to pay for it or improve the underlying policy is irresponsible and takes us in the wrong direction," he added.

As drafted, the bill would restore between 14 weeks and 47 weeks of benefits averaging $256 weekly to an estimated 1.3 million long-term jobless who were affected when the program expired Dec. 28. Without action by Congress, thousands more each week would feel the impact as their state-funded benefits expire, generally after 26 weeks.

"These are people who want to work, but they need some help," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said of the men and women who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. He said many are middle-class, middle-aged people who never thought they would wind up in the situation in which they find themselves.

Reid said that as the unemployed spend the funds they receive, the overall economy grows by $1.50 for every $1 in benefits.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said without steps to offset the legislation's expense, all of the $6 billion or more it costs would add to deficits. He called it "just a total violation of promised fiscal responsibility."

Heller said he would have preferred to have paid for the benefits "in a manner that does not burden our nation with more debt." At the same time, he said, "for these benefits to simply vanish without giving families the time to plan ... is just not right."

Nevada's unemployment was measured at 9 percent in November, tied with Rhode Island for the highest in the nation.

Republicans appeared split into three camps: Heller and an unknown number of others; a group that is willing to renew the benefits, but insists that the $6.4 billion cost be paid for; and a third group opposed under any circumstances.

Two influential outside organizations opposed the bill, including Heritage Action, which called the program of extended unemployment benefits "ineffective and wasteful."

At issue was a complicated system that provides as much as 47 weeks of federally-funded benefits, which begin after state benefits, usually 26 weeks in duration, are exhausted.

The first tier of additional benefits is 14 weeks and generally available to all who have used up their state benefits.

An additional 14 weeks is available to the unemployed in states where unemployment is 6 percent or higher. Nine more weeks of benefits are available in states with joblessness of 7 percent or higher. In states where unemployment is 9 percent or higher, another 10 weeks of benefits are available.

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frigid air that snapped decades-old records will make venturing outside dangerous for a second straight day, this time spreading to southern and eastern parts of the U.S. and keeping many schools and businesses shuttered. Meanwhile, residents driven from their homes by power outages in the Midwest worried about burst pipes.

Monday's subzero temperatures broke records in Chicago, which set a record for the date at minus 16, and Fort Wayne, Ind., where the mercury fell to 13 below. Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were 40 below and colder. Officials in states like Indiana already struggling with high winds and more than a foot of snow urged residents to stay home if they could.

"The cold is the real killer here," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed another day. "In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes."

The polar air will next invade the East and South on Tuesday, bringing with it the prospect of more records falling. Highs in the single digits were expected in Georgia and Alabama, and wind chill warnings stretched as far south as Florida, with forecasts calling for minus 10 in Atlanta and minus 12 in Baltimore.

In downtown Louisville, Ky., where wind chills dropped to 22 below zero Monday, John Tyler gathered with friends at a McDonald's. The self-described homeless man spent Sunday night sleeping on the street.

Dressed in a sweatshirt, two coats and a black woolen cap, Tyler said there's no way to adequately prepare for this kind of cold.

"How we're dealing with it? You can't deal with it," Tyler said. "There's no way you can deal with it."

Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the "polar vortex" by the time it spreads across the country. Tennessee utility officials braced for near-record power demand, while Ohio prepared for its coldest temperatures in decades.

PJM Interconnection, who operates the power grid supplying energy to more than 61 million people in parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, has asked users to conserve electricity Tuesday because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Recovery will be the focus in several Midwestern states Tuesday, since the subzero cold followed inches of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous — especially on interstates in Indiana and Illinois — and was being blamed for numerous deaths in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued disaster declarations, paving the way to request federal aid.

More than 30,000 customers in Indiana were without power late Monday night. Utility crews worked to restore electricity as temperatures plunged into the negative teens, but officials cautioned some people could be in the cold and dark for days.

"My kids are ready to go home, and I'm ready too," said 41-year-old Timolyn Johnson-Fitzgerald, of Indianapolis, who faced a second night sleeping on cots at a Red Cross shelter with her three children, ages 11, 15, and 18.

More than 500 Amtrak passengers spent the night on three stopped trains headed for Chicago because of blowing and drifting snow in north-central Illinois. A spokesman said the trains — coming from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Quincy, Ill. — are operating on tracks owned by BNSF railroad and crews are working to reopen the tracks.

Bob Oravec, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said the blast of frigid air raised concerns that roads wet from melted snow would freeze over.

"In Maryland, we lost a lot of the snowpack and a lot of water is draining off, and the temperatures are dropping fast," Oravec said.

But there are signs things are returning to normal.

JetBlue Airways, which stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston on Monday, planned to resume some flights Tuesday morning. Southwest Airlines operations in Chicago resumed Monday night, even if it was, as a spokesman for the Texas-based airline called it, "a trickle."

The Minnesota Zoo announced it would reopen to the public Tuesday. State lawmakers in Indiana planned to kick off their 2014 legislative session after a day's postponement.

And warmer temperatures — at least, near or above freezing — are in store for the Midwest. Indianapolis should reach 27 degrees on Wednesday, and other parts of the central U.S. could climb above freezing later in the week.

Even International Falls, Minn., had something to look forward to. Wind chills dropped as low as -55 Monday, but were expected to rebound to 25 below Tuesday. By Friday, the low was expected to be 5 to 10 above zero, Oravec said.

Until then, take advice for dealing with frostbite- and hypothermia-inducing cold from Anthony Bickham in St. Paul, Minn., who jumped around while waiting for the bus Monday.

"You gotta keep it moving," Bickham said. "Stay warm at ... all costs, you know."

___

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis; Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Ky.; and Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has refused a group of doctors' request to block implementation of the nation's new health care law.

Chief Justice John Roberts turned away without comment Monday an emergency stay request from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. and the Alliance for Natural Health USA.

They asked the chief justice Friday to temporarily block the law, saying Congress had passed it incorrectly by starting it in the Senate instead of the House. Revenue-raising bills are supposed to originate in the lower chamber. They also wanted blocked doctor registration requirements they say will make it harder for independent non-Medicare physicians to treat Medicare-eligible patients.

Still pending is a decision on a temporary block on the law's contraceptive coverage requirements, which was challenged by a group of nuns.

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