After the Senate gave early indication of supporting an extension of unemployment benefits, President Barack Obama made a call for further action during a press event on Tuesday. According to him, such benefits "create jobs," a point he made while being flanked by unemployed Americans.
US President Barack Obama listens to unemployed Katherine Hackett of Moodus, Connecticut, speak about extending emergency unemployment benefits in the East Room of the White House in Washington on January 7, 2014. The US Senate narrowly advanced efforts to provide benefits for America's long-term unemployed, answering President Barack Obama's call to extend the emergency jobless insurance for 1.3 million people. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM
"Our first order of 2014 is extending insurance for the unemployed. The good news is this morning, the Senate took a very important step in that direction," the president said.
Obama is throwing his support behind a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) would spend $6.5 billion to extend unemployment benefits for three months.
The Senate voted 60-37 to allow a bill to move forward on extending the jobless benefits for another three months, enough votes to overcome a potential Republican filibuster.
However, even some of the Republican senators who voted to bring the bill to the floor said they will still pursue cuts to offset the cost.
"Voting for extending unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs," Obama said. "Voting against it doesn't."
Obama hasn't threatened to veto a bill with offsets. But, he talked about how offsets were not part of unemployment benefits in the past.
"In the past, this was passed on a bipartisan basis with no strings attached," Obama said.
The extended unemployment insurance benefits expired at the end of 2013, and despite pleas from the president were not part of the 2014 budget agreement approved by Congress.
The unemployment rate has never dropped below 7 percent since Obama has been president.
Obama expressed strong disagreement that expanding unemployment benefits discourages people from getting a job, pointing to one of the women on stage with him who said she lost weight, keeps her heat on 58 degrees and wears a coat in the house.
"Unemployment insurance has been a vital economic lifeline," Obama said. "For a lot of people it's the only source of income they've got to support while they look for another job."
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