In a speech on Tuesday from the White House, President Barack Obama urged Congress to come together in a bipartisan effort to extend emergency unemployment insurance to out of work Americans. Stressing the loss of benefits and its detrimental effect on the U.S. economy, the President’s measured approach was replete with direct shots at congressional leaders and their haggling over this issue.
Speaking from the East Room and flanked by individuals who have suffered a loss of their Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits last last month, President Obama highlighted some of his administration’s accomplishments regarding the slowly strengthening economy. However, the tone changed drastically when the speech’s aims focused on the topic of extending unemployment benefits.
From the President’s speech:
Now, I’ve heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it zaps their motivation to get a new job. I really want to go at this for a second. That really sells the American people short. I meet a lot of people as President of the United States, and as a candidate for President of the United States, and as a U.S. senator, and as a state senator — I meet a lot of people. And I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job.
So letting unemployment insurance expire for millions of Americans is wrong. Congress should make things right. I am very appreciative that they’re on their way to doing just that thanks to the bipartisan work of two senators. You had a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, and you had a conservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller. And despite their political differences, they worked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance at least for three months temporarily while we figure out a longer-term solution.
Around 1.3 million Americans thus far have been impacted by the ending of emergency unemployment benefits. The White House says that if nothing is done regarding the extension soon, it may impact the economy with the loss of 240,000 jobs.
Opponents who do not wish to extend the benefits are largely made up of Congressional Republicans, with just six GOP senators joining a Democratic caucus to move forward with an extension to long-term unemployment benefits on Tuesday.
A rallying cry among Republicans and extreme Conservatives is cutting the federal support of unemployment insurance short. In fact, between 2009 and 2013, the number of Republicans who want federal aid lowered or cut doubled from 26 to 56 percent according to a Pew Research Center poll from 2013. The fiscal budget is strained, however, and critics of the extension plan have challenged the Obama administration on how the government intends to pay for the insurance in the future.