House Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to extended jobless benefits, a measure that was widely expected to pass with a veto-proof majority. The final vote was 279 to 144.
The setback to the bill came despite last week's news that the May unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent — the biggest one month jump in decades.
Democrats said the measure would be brought back to the floor Thursday.
A two-thirds vote was needed to pass the bill, which would have provided an extra 13 weeks of jobless benefits. That was also the margin needed to overcome a threatened White House veto.
Republicans complained the measure would have provided money to states that still have low unemployment rates.