White House Encourages Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits

The Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would restore benefits to an estimated 1.3 million Americans.
3:00 | 01/06/14

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Transcript for White House Encourages Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits
This is a special room. I'm Dan -- New York with his ABC news digital special report the senate is back in session and -- -- top of its list. Unemployment benefits the federal government passed a budget in December but not included in that deal. Long term unemployment benefits Gene Sperling the director of president Obama's National Economic Council. Made this appeal at today's White House briefing. Clearly. Perhaps the worst. Legacy of the Great Recession which is the crisis of long term unemployment that we still face. In our in our country. -- we've seen the unemployment rate come down generally and particularly for those -- -- short term unemployed. Those who are long term unemployed. Continue to face it very difficult labor market. And we know. That those who stay at a labor force too long. Often suffer. Serious. Economic and psychological. Wounds and that we as a country have to be committed to doing everything we can. To help those were long term unemployed. Find new jobs to support their families. Get them back on their feet. Long term unemployment benefits will they be extended and at what cost if so or if not. For more -- -- and ABC's Devin Dwyer -- Washington along with Yahoo! finance is -- cent toll here in New York. Guys thanks for being with us and -- I want to start with you what is the senate planning for tonight that. Against good to see of the senate is back now after a three day holiday vacation as you mentioned. And at about 530 tonight they're gonna take the first test vote on. Some legislation bipartisan bill that would extend unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed. The long term jobless for about three months as you mentioned those benefits expired. Actually back in December December 28 so but one point three million people. Are now without those emergency benefits they average about 300 dollars a week for people were still looking for work. The senate tonight is going to take a first test vote to see if they can extend that for three months while they continue to talk about a longer term deal. Gotta tell your right now it doesn't look like they have the votes just yet to get that passed. And and we can talk a little bit more about this but the big issue right now is how to pay for that. Imus has the right exactly the details of that certain like let me ask you -- -- -- -- the basics to disclose classified as long term unemployed. Right -- anybody who's been out of work and unemployed for more than 26 weeks is considered. Long term unemployed usually the stated unemployment insurance systems will cover you on a short term basis so the extended. Unemployment benefits war created by by congress in the aftermath of that the Great Recession to essentially try to bridge people from that state insurance. System. Two to a longer term protections so that you know perhaps they can bring some. Two ought to work down the road are and that's about one point three million people. Currently categorized as being long term unemployed. Well the one point three million is the number that quick that all automatically lost. Those benefits and it was there were beyond that point -- you know every week that goes by more people who war. Kind of unemployment going to. That long term category will be without benefit so it's more than that number that is -- kind of technically out of work for longer than six a window that's almost expanding as obviously time -- sister is a -- let me ask you this thing if the White House -- this issue vital. Why wasn't included in the budget back in December. -- the White House and many Democrats here against say that this is and has always been treated as something of an emergency issue you heard. Gene Sperling -- the National Economic Council director talk a little bit about it today that it's been treated as something. Of a budget supplemental much in the same way that if we were to go to war tonight. That the congress would need to sort of put an infusion of cash to help fund that on an emergency basis. They're calling this much in the same way an emergency situation and urgent situation that needs to be addressed outside the budget. Of course Republicans saying it -- inside or outside the budget has to be paid for it's about six and have billion dollars just for the three month extension. About 25 billion dollars if they were to extend these benefits for a year so much of the debate is standard right now on how to pay for that. And the debate obviously taking a very public forum as well because over the weekend senator Rand Paul and Chuck Schumer. -- some pretty tense words really kind of showcasing ideological differences in business. That's right this issue is one of those -- they're in there that really brings to the for those differences philosophical differences fundamental differences in. In both parties how they view this as both being very sincere today and it's in the. Comments we've heard from members on both sides about their desire to help the unemployed. But as you mentioned on this week -- senator Rand Paul a Republican Chuck Schumer Democrat. Offering very different arguments about how to help the unemployed essentially senator Paul saying. He's open to some sort of short term extension -- gets paid for but fundamentally. He thinks they're providing these benefits in his word is something of a disservice to long term unemployed people he says it's something of a disincentive. To keep looking for work senator Schumer saying on the other hand many of these people. -- are desperately searching for jobs it's not for lack of trying that they can't find a job right now there's only one job opening for every yet. Three people looking for a job so that other argument is that this help is really critical and you're seeing those two arguments again come to a head. Today on the floor as they better prepared in just about a couple hours from now just to see where things stand in terms of -- vote on this and. Might I did we talk about the benefits and -- costs are associated with -- -- long term benefits the White House is set. Sensibly now that obviously a financial and economic recovery is at the top of its list of priorities. How would fact and by not extending long term unemployment benefits how's -- -- hinder the White House's plan an enemy right now we've got unemployment at 7%. Yeah well I don't think it would hinder the effort of the recovery I mean it's not a large amount of money that would be going into people's pockets in aggregate or to the economy. But what it basically this is sort of an acknowledgment I think from the White House point of view that even though the economy has recovered -- obviously still an impaired. Job market right now it's not the situation where it's where we want it to be so therefore until we have are somewhat closer to a full employment situation. Let's again kind of keep this bridge in place. Four people Wally out while they don't have work now look -- it's very likely that as these benefits go away. Presuming that this does not get extended many of those people will essentially drop out of the workforce they're not going to necessarily immediately. Start looking harder for work. Just because you have people who are basically kind of involuntarily early retired and all these other categories. So it's not say that -- this in particular is keeping people from getting jobs it's really much more. Kind of just to keep money flowing into people's pockets that otherwise wouldn't get there and who -- to become. Of that I know we always talk about what our unemployment numbers come -- either on a weekly or the monthly basis as. It's always about the participation of those actively looking that are unemployed what kind of an impact and -- -- -- -- -- -- if in fact. The labor force -- to simply stop looking for work. Right the unemployment rate of reported unemployment rate would probably jump down. If this in fact it is going to be the case in other words the benefits are not extended so would be kind of unemployment rate going down for -- for the -- -- Which is that that many more people had been measured. As unemployed and looking for work would no longer be looking for not every single person obviously but a large percentage of them just because we know that the longer people are out of work. The more discouraged they -- of the so the less tethered to the job market they are. And they have a lower probability of finding something quickly. Money go back at DeVon -- Republicans. In the cost for the benefit needs to be offset any idea about where the proposal is for where -- that revenue should be coming from. That's right -- -- the proposal that's on the table right now has no cost offsets and it at all. And there really aren't any on the table at this point it's kind of a my way or the highway approach -- we've heard from the White House today politically. Democrats are really trying to charge ahead with this saying there's ample precedent for simply is we're talking about earlier passing these emergency measures. Difficult times call for. For really unprecedented steps are saying that this is one of those they said and since 2008 we heard senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island sponsoring this legislation said today. That intent occasions since 200810 different times since the -- Great Recession hit us they have extended. These unemployment benefits without any -- -- so they're saying again why shouldn't stop today wise today different. Republicans in -- new year under pressure of reelection a lot of fiscal hawks really looking for those -- force. Haven't seen any yet today and and that may -- this vote and a couple of hours were senate Democrats in for more Republicans. Likelihood not seeming to be there. That's right there they're gonna need -- the sixty vote threshold here again that's that marker Eddie to beat the filibuster. They have 45. Rather 55 votes so far they're going to need. For more Republicans to join them and so far we've only heard from senator Dean Heller of Nevada the only Republican to back this estate as one of the highest. Long term unemployment rates but I know that President Obama is placing a lot of calls today here on the -- we also know that as senator however that Republican. It's trying to win some folks over to his sides -- still some time -- but but they do need for critical Republican votes -- -- Bring you back into this and and revisit the question I had asked any alternatives that are being explored right now. As -- post is to simply -- extending the long term unemployment benefits. I mean nothing that really would take effect very very quickly are being particularly effective I don't think. To kind of directly. Slows people into the job market no I think it's all about kind of bigger structural measures whether -- retraining programs and all these things you've heard about honestly. The best thing that could happen is if the economy as a whole. Accelerated. You know as it seems to be showing signs of doing perhaps the end of 2013. And that -- just tighten up the job market on its -- we all knew that at some point at least most people assumed that these benefits would be kind of cut off and those people left left out of the workforce would remain there. But you just want unemployment me that much lower when that happens -- -- always possible for the sake of the people unemployed. Two areas then it oftentimes can take some kind of a reaction. For employment numbers coming out there Wall Street and then of course the rest of us those that are obviously keeping 9401 -- or any kind of smaller investments on the side there. How closely -- Wall Street care about these unemployment debates. You know Wall Street doesn't so much good to be honest care about this particular element that they -- -- the general trend. Job growth the general trend of job -- -- has been relatively strong in the last six months. That means that the recoveries is under way not fast enough but you know certainly better than than before so that they care about what they're not as focused on is the components of those people still unemployed -- whether they are getting benefits where they're not that 25 billion dollar annual number is just not. Significant enough in the grand scheme of the overall economy at sixteen trillion dollars a year to necessarily change anybody's estimates the only place that need -- would get a little more attention. Is it has it relates to Federal Reserve policy the Fed has -- over time you know maybe six and a half percent would be the very. Highest unemployment rate at which would consider raising interest rates but they backed off of that so there's no implications for interest rates or really consumer spending as a whole I honestly don't think that Wall Street is terribly focused on this -- And so we will wait to see them how the senate will be voting and that tests just a short time from now ABC's -- to our Washington. Yahoo! finance -- Mike cent toll in New York guys thank you so much appreciate it. Of course a complete recap right here on ABC news dot confidant Dan Butler New York with his ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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