Obama Calls for Jobless Benefits Extension: ‘There Are Times Where You Put Elections Aside’

By Alex Pepper

Jul 19, 2010 12:13pm

From Sunlen Miller

President Obama called on the Senate today to “stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics,” and to pass the unemployment benefits extension tomorrow.

“It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics,” Obama said from the Rose Garden, “It’s time to do what’s right, not for the next election, but for the middle class. We’ve got to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work.  We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance.”

Mr. Obama did his best to put a face to the problem, trotting out three unemployed workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

“We’ve got a responsibility to help them make ends meet and support their families, even as they are looking for another job. And that’s why it’s so essential to pass the unemployment insurance extension that comes up for a vote tomorrow.”

Pointing a finger at Republicans, President Obama said it has been a tradition under both Democratic and Republican presidents to offer such relief to the unemployed.

“After years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problems spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans.”

The president said that thrice the Senate has recently voted to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis, but each time “a partisan minority” in the Senate has used “parliamentary maneuvers” to block a vote.

“These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks. That attitude, I think, reflects a lack of faith in the American people.”

Mr. Obama said that the Americans he heard from, and those standing next to him at the podium desperately want to work, they just can’t find a job.

“These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own and who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits and who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.”

Even with the November elections looming, which the president acknowledged, he said that “these are the times where you put elections aside.”

“That’s what I hope members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will do tomorrow.”

The Senate plans to formally welcome its newest member — West Virginia Democrat Carte Goodwin — with a swearing in on Tuesday afternoon, followed 15 minutes later by a vote on extending unemployment benefits.

Democrats couldn’t pass the extension the last three times they tried, but now with Senator Goodwin replacing Robert Byrd, they’ll have the 60 votes they need.

-Sunlen Miller

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