Olympia Snowe hinted at this yesterday, and today she made it official – she would support a standalone bill extending unemployment insurance, without offsetting the spending.

The hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans who are losing jobless benefits every week deserve our immediate attention, so I am writing today to urge you to bring a free-standing extension of unemployment insurance benefits to the Senate floor for a vote early next week. As of today, more than 1.2 million people out of work for longer than six months are ineligible for the next tier of extended benefits, which were originally provided by the economic stimulus bill to fight the recession.

It’s worth calling her bluff. Ben Nelson would probably be the one vote needed to capture in order to get 60 votes for this. I’m not certain he would vote for it. If Snowe wants this, she can find someone else on her side of the aisle to ensure it.

There are too many lives at stake to not at least consider this for early next week. Hopefully it gets done, so we don’t have the insane experience where Republicans can block the desperately poor from being able to keep their homes and feed their families, but everyone can come together to make sure that doctors don’t get a pay cut.

UPDATE: Reid spokesman Jim Manley doesn’t sound appreciative of the concession:

“We appreciate Senator Snowe’s concerns, but the fact is that she is sending the letter to the wrong person and to the wrong party. We know that the thousands of unemployed workers in Maine want an explanation as to why she joined with all Republicans to vote against legislation to help the unemployed and why she stood silent as members of her party objected to passing the same stand-alone bill she now says she seeks. Nothing in the letter can change those facts.”