Today’s Q’s for O’s WH

By Alex Pepper

Jul 19, 2010 3:41pm

From Jonathan Karl

KARL :  The president said Republican leaders in the Senate were advancing the misguided notion that the unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for a job, but the Republican leaders, from Mitch McConnell on down, have said that they are in favor of extending unemployment benefits, but that they want the cost of that extension to be paid for with cuts to other programs.  What's wrong with that?

GIBBS:  In a time of great economic emergency, as we have seen in the past, it's necessary that we get the benefits that millions of Americans deserve that are out of work. We can't — you heard the stories today of people that are going to have to figure out how to pay their mortgage in August when their benefits expire. Now, I don't think that individual or any individual wants to watch while Washington does it's normal back and forth.  Right?  I don't — I think you can look at the voting records of every one of those that just made the same statement that you read to me that in the past have done directly the opposite. We are in an economic emergency that we have not seen since the late 1920s and the early 1930s.  We ought not be playing politics with the unemployment benefits of those that have lost their jobs and are in an economy where there are five job applicants for every opening.

KARL:  But couldn't Democrats have solved this instantly by simply saying, "We're going to extend unemployment benefits and we're going to pay for it with offsetting cuts"?

GIBBS:  We could have done this — we could have done this if the people that were playing games in 2010, despite their voting records in years past, decided not to play political games. The people in America that have lost their jobs are tired of the back and forth where people say one thing one day and do something totally different today. We have voted three times, and tomorrow we will vote a fourth, to simply extend the benefits for those that are unemployed for a long term, simply to extend them a few more weeks. That's what the American people deserve.

KARL:  But pay-as-you-go is the very principle the president put forward himself…
GIBBS:  Again, I think this president has backed up that rhetoric by introducing a three-year ban or a three-year freeze on nonsecurity spending.  But there are certain things that are — that are — are and always have been considered emergency spending, and extending unemployment benefits to those who have lost their jobs in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression certainly qualifies for that.

KARL: Let me ask you about these so-called 99-ers, people who have been unemployed for 99 weeks or more, their benefits are not going to be extended under this.  Is the president aware of their plight?  And does the president favor doing something to help them out?

GIBBS:  Obviously, we're — we are aware of and concerned about. I think first and foremost, we've got to figure out how to get those that are currently unemployed to a position where they can even get close to being covered for that long. I think it is safe to assume that based on the games that are going up on Capitol Hill, we are not at this point going to see an increase in extending those 99 weeks. Our focus right now is getting those individuals to that level. Right now, if you're on — you could be somebody who is in the 25th of their 26 weeks of state unemployment and finds themselves about to be left hung out to dry by the political games in this town.   So our focus is on extending what we currently have.

-Jonathan Karl

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