Health Care Reform, Unemployment Top Obama's Domestic Agenda

As the debate over the economy and Afghanistan strategy heat up, the White House this week will attempt to move past President Obama's failed attempt to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago to more pressing things at home and abroad.

Despite the administration's $787 billion stimulus package and funding for banks and the auto industry, rising unemployment remains a thorny issue and one that experts say the administration needs to deal with quickly.

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The White House insists that the economy is improving and that jobs are a lagging indicator, but experts say that's not enough to appease the thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs and can't find a job. In September, unemployment rose to 9.8 percent, the highest level since June 1983. The number of Americans who've been unemployed for more than six months jumped sharply to five million. In some states, such as Michigan and South Carolina, that figure is now in double digits and rising.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle say this week they will work on extending unemployment benefits, and possibly even the housing credit.

"We're going to pass a bill this week, put it on the floor. I believe it will pass. It will extend unemployment benefits for four weeks for all states and another 12 or 13 weeks for all states above eight percent," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."

However, neither party members would commit to a second stimulus package. The president has not completely ruled out that idea, but lawmakers say it is unlikely.

"Don't know whether it would be [necessary]," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told CNN "State of the Union's" John King. "It could be moving forward with an energy bill, which I'm very excited about, and would actually, I think, allow this economy to take off, because it would draw, not federal funds, but private funds."

Boxer, along with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., unveiled a climate change bill last week that proposes significantly stronger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions than both what Obama and the House have called for. Critics say the bill would kill jobs and dent economic growth.

Republicans lashed out at the administration for passing the stimulus bill too hastily and pointed out that much of the money remains unspent.

"I think the stimulus so far has been unsuccessful in achieving the goals the president set out for it," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on "This Week." "I think there are things we need to do to help people who need help, like unemployment benefits and the like. But I think throwing more money at the problem and racking up more and more debt for children and grandchildren is not the answer."

Even some Democrats have expressed uncertainty about a possible second stimulus.

"It continues to go into the economic bloodstream and to keep things, which -- as unsatisfying as they are -- from being a whole lot worse," Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said on "Fox News Sunday." "But I wish it could have done more."

Other Democrats say they need to work on other fronts, such as job creation, before committing to a second stimulus.

"Before doing a second stimulus, let's see how the rest of the 60 percent works and try to deal with the pain of some people in terms of the job front ... and in certain targeted areas of the economy such as housing," Schumer said.

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