Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama took aim at Republican lawmakers Monday, accusing them of holding the public hostage to Washington politics by blocking extended unemployment benefits for millions of out of work Americans.

Barack Obama, Denise Gibson, Jim Chukalas, Leslie Macko
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama stands with, from left to right: Denise Gibson from Brooklyn, N.Y., Jim Chukalas from Fredon Township, N.J., and Leslie Macko from Charlottesville, Va., all unemployed, as he speaks about the unemployment insurance and the economy in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 19.

"It's time to do what's right, not for the next election, but for the middle class," Obama said in a presidential jawboning statement in the Rose Garden Monday morning.

Lawmakers have battled for weeks over legislation extending unemployment benefits to workers who have been out of a job for long stretches of time. The last such extension expired at the end of May, leaving some 2.5 million people without benefits, with hundreds of thousands more losing benefits each week.

The Senate is set to take up the measure again Tuesday, immediately following the swearing in of a replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd. Filling that seat will give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block a Republican filibuster.

Obama's argument has become a familiar one, as Democrats try to use the Republican blockade of unemployment benefits as a wedge issue heading into the November midterm elections.

On Monday, he sought to cast his Republican opponents as hypocritical for having voted for extensions of unemployment benefits when his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush, was in the White House, but not now. He accused Republican leaders of subscribing to what he called a misguided notion that providing unemployment aid to people lowers their incentive to look hard for a job.

"That attitude, I think, reflects a lack of faith in the American people," Obama said.

The president said that the out-of-work people he hears from are "not looking for a handout. They desperately want to work. Just right now, they can't find a job."

"These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own."

The $34 billion needed to extend benefits would be borrowed, adding to the nation's mounting debt. Republicans have tapped into the public's anger and concern over the national debt, saying they would support extending jobless benefits only if the bill was paid for.

"Everyone agrees on extending the additional unemployment insurance, but the Democrat way is to insist we add it to the national debt at the same time, while blocking Republican efforts to pass the same extension without the debt," said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

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Comments

 's picture

ONE

One thing that would help everyone is to STOP THE WAR and help the UNITED STATES PEOPLE OUT ??????? ( ONLY ) LEGAL >>>>>

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

Republican debts need to be reduced, but when?

When the Chamber of Commerce corporations start spending some of the $1.8 tillion slush fund they so far have refused to spend because it would help democratic prospects in November.

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

Republican Debts needs to be reduced, but when?

Republican presidents have generated 12 of the $13+ trillion national debt largely to prevent Democratic Presidents from meeting the nation's needs. $6 trillion by George Bush alone. Now Republican legislators are playing Russian roullete with the national recovery all so a confused and inattentive public will give them a few more seats in the House so they can wreck the economy again.

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