Obama Makes Case to Extend Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

Republicans square off against the president on how to pay for the three-month extension of benefits.
3:00 | 01/07/14

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Transcript for Obama Makes Case to Extend Long-Term Unemployment Benefits
This is a special room. I'm dance company are -- this ABC news digital special report. Six Republicans crossed the party line joining Democrats to begin debate on extending long term unemployment benefits. More than a million Americans lost coverage last week create a wedge between lawmakers that want a -- month extension. And those that -- find the money to fund it first. -- Democrats right after this morning's vote. I think we've given a bit of hope to millions of Americans. Who. Are struggling in a difficult economy to find jobs. Who are struggling to. Provide. Sustenance that families. It is to pay the heat -- Put some gas in the car. And to keep looking for work. Now a little later Senate Minority Leader -- the Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell fired back. I'd like to propose that would be allowed -- be allowed to offer an amendment to pay for these benefits. About lifting the burden of Obama -- individual mandate for one year. And take care of our veterans who were harmed by the recently agreed to budget deal. While we are sat in the same amendment. And so we are awaiting. -- announcement by the president -- the east room of the White House today to be his first appearance. Since returning from vacation in Hawaii. And discussing today. The long term unemployment benefits but first I want to bring in ABC's Devin Dwyer who's standing by with a preview of this -- how people would be affected by this. -- and good morning that this potential extension of unemployment benefits would apply to at least one point three million Americans. As you said who lost those emergency benefits on December 28 presumably that number could be even larger. People who've signed up -- qualified for those long term benefits since that time been out of work longer than 26 weeks. So this has the potential for really large impact on the big number of America's -- it is that it does this bill contain any spending cuts and -- has the White House -- actually discuss the Affordable Care Act. That's right -- the bill would advance today in the senate and reach that sixty vote. Threshold to move forward doesn't include any. For three months Republicans as you said looking for some sort of offset -- -- the White House hasn't proposed -- there's nothing really on the table. We did hear from Republicans say they wanted some changes to the Affordable Care Act or other changes. Seems to be a non starter right now for the White House they just want this acted upon so. Once again here Washington we're kind of at loggerheads over this issue of of unemployment and -- inequality in how to pay for these things. But in fact there -- -- Republicans that did join the ranks of Democrats -- sixty votes in favor mean obvious that a filibuster was defeated. Who the Republicans across the aisle. There were six report. -- -- -- join us some surprises there we knew that the cosponsor of the bill Dean Heller of Nevada. When the states at the highest long term unemployment rates was -- was a sponsor from the beginning they needed five. Republicans to go along Kelly out of New Hampshire. That's Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska if it -- all joined in on this but let's listen to the president. 2014. Could be. A breakthrough year for America. Think about five years ago this month our economy was shedding 800000. Jobs just -- -- month. But as Americans buckled down -- worked hard and sacrifice we began to come back. And our businesses -- created more than eight million new jobs since we hit the bottom. Our auto industry's gone from Barnstable and manufacturing rebounding the housing markets. Rebounding stock markets are restoring retirement accounts. The promise of energy independence is actually in sight. Health care costs eat up less of our economy over the past four years also grown at the slowest rate on record. And since I took office we've cut our deficits by more than half. So America's getting stronger and we've made progress. The economy is growing and we've got to do more to make sure that all Americans share -- that growth. We've got to help our businesses create more jobs we got to make sure those jobs offer the wages benefits that let families rebuild -- security. In other words we're gonna make sure that this recovery leaves nobody behind. And we've got a lot of work to do. On that front. The good news is are optimistic we can do -- if we do it together. Before the holiday is both parties compromised on a budget that -- some of the drag. It's been on the economy from. These indiscriminate cuts we -- sequester. And as consequence this year. We may see more stability when it comes to economic growth. And I think I'm not alone in saying that. We are all grateful in the new year that we -- have another partisan shot hopefully. Going forward. So. That was good -- We should build on that progress. -- what I said should be the first order business in 2014. And that is extending insurance. For the unemployed. The good news -- this morning the senate took a very important step in that direction. For the Americans who join me at the White House today and millions like them who were laid off in the recession through no fault of their own. Unemployment insurance has been a vital economic lifeline. For a lot of people it's the only source of income they've got to support their families. While they look for a new job. These are folks through. Are just sitting back. Waiting for things to happen they're out there actively looking for work. They desperately want work. But although the economy has been growing and we've been adding new jobs. The truth of the matter is is that the financial crisis was so devastating. That they're still a lot of people. Who were struggling. And in fact if we don't provide unemployment insurance and makes it harder for them the -- -- -- -- -- far more eloquent -- I could ever be. She wrote -- last month the sake please let those who think I'm sitting at home enjoying being unemployed no but I'd much rather be -- And I had a chance to talk to Catherine and I think it's pretty clear. That's the case. Catherine went on to say I've applied. To everything for which I'm possibly qualified. To no avail. -- worked hard all my wife paid taxes. Voted engaged in political discussion and made the ultimate sacrifice my two sons served in the US military. Job loss is devastating in a fight could fix it myself I would. I challenge any lawmaker to live without an income. That's what Jeffords. -- -- So when we've got. The mom of two of our troops. Who is working hard out there. But is and work -- inside the house. We got a problem. This woman can be fixed. -- -- -- -- Governments met who's watching today from her home in California wrote me about her hunt for a new job. Since she was laid off thirteen months ago she sent out hundreds of Reza -- she's volunteered she's -- seasonal work she -- -- -- just. -- around the house she's been taking online courses to learn new skills. Without unemployment insurance though she won't be able to pay for her car or her cell -- which makes the job -- that much harder. -- -- -- -- -- -- I've wanted nothing more than to find a new full time job and -- dedicated every data that mission. I'm asking you to advocate for me and the millions. Like me who need our extended unemployment benefits to make ends meet. So I just want -- -- understand this is not an abstraction these are not statistics. These are your neighbors your friends your family members it could at some point be. Any of us. That's why. We set up a system of unemployment insurance. The notion was their bread. Is making a contribution. Because you don't know when the business cycle or an economic crisis might make any of -- moment. In this insurance helps keep food on the table while -- is sending out resonance. It helps mom pay the rent while she's learning new skills to -- that new job. It provides that extra bit of security so that. Losing your job doesn't mean that -- -- to lose your house. What everything you worked so hard to build. For years. We make this promise to our fellow Americans we're working hard to get back on their feet because when times get tough we are not. The people who say you're on your own. For people who believe that we're all in this together and we know -- by the grace of god -- -- It's so. So that's that's the values case for this that the moral case -- this but there's an economic -- -- as well independent economists have shown that extending emergency unemployment insurance. Actually helps the economy actually creates new jobs. When. Folks like Catherine have a little more to spend. To turn up the heat in her house or buy a few extra groceries. Remains. More spending more businesses that are local community. Which in turn may -- inspire. That business hire one more person maybe can't. That's why in the past both parties have repeatedly put partisanship. And ideology aside to offer some security for job seekers. Would mow strings attached. It's been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in the white us. It's been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controlled congress. And by the way it's done but it's been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower. That it is today. And what's important to keep in mind also is that. The recovery. In a big country like the United States is going to be somewhat uneven so there are some states that have -- 2.5 unemployment rate. And then there -- some places that. May still have 789. -- percent unemployment rate. The people living in those respective states may be working equally hard to find a job. But it's going to be harder someplace of -- others. Now two weeks ago congress went home for the holidays and let this lifeline expire. For one point three million Americans. If this doesn't get fixed -- -- heard about fourteen million Americans over the course of this year. Five million workers along with -- nine million of their -- rumors their spouses. Their kids. Now I've heard the argument. That says extending unemployment insurance rule somehow hurt the unemployed because it saps their motivation. To get a new job. I I really want I wanna go weapons -- -- -- -- -- -- That really -- the American people -- I mean a lot of people as president of United States. And as candidate for prisoners -- and as a US senator and as they state senator I I've made a lot of people. And I can't. I can't name a time. Where -- -- American who would rather have an unemployment check. Man the pride of having a job. The long term unemployed are not lazy. They're not lacking in motivation. They're coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations. In some cases they may have -- skills mismatch. They may have been dormant a certain job for twenty years suddenly. They lose their job. They may be an older worker. May have to get retrained. It's hard sometimes employers will discriminate if you've been out of work for a while they decide well we're not sure we -- -- How are you would rather hire somebody. Who's still working right now. So it's hard out there. A lot of our friends lot of our neighbors who lost their jobs and their work and their tails off every single day trying to find a new job. Now has the job market keeps getting better. More and more of these folks. Will find work. But in the meantime the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff. It make sure they compare cargo to go. To that interview. And make sure they pay their cellphone bill so that. If somebody calls back for an interview they can answer. And Ken Kaplan explained that's -- government in the letter that she wrote -- said that the folks really think that cutting. This benefit. Will make someone hire me. Must not allow importers -- think it. So letting unemployment insurance expire for millions of Americans is -- Congress should make things right. I'm very appreciative of their on their way to doing just that thanks to the bipartisan work of two senators. The other Democrat from Rhode Island. Senator Reid -- -- a conservative. Republican from the bat under -- And despite their political differences they worked together on a plan to extend unemployment. Insurance. At least for three months temporarily while we figure out a longer term solution. And this morning a bipartisan majority of senators agreed to allow this common sense provision to at least move forward in the process. The service complicated. Plates so just because they agreed. Are on this vote all they've agreed to so -- is that we're actually going to be able have a -- out there and actually passed. So we've got. Get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay and we need the House of Representatives. To be eligible -- -- -- and it's. The moment. Voting for unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs. In voting against it does not. Congress should pass this bipartisan plan right away and I will sign it right away and more than one million Americans across the country. We'll feel a little hope right away. And hope is contagious. You know when. In order when we kept forever will be -- more confidence about her situation. When she finds job she's going to be -- helped some very down one maybe who's also down on the -- when congress. Passes. A bipartisan effort -- starting here invited to begin the new year who knows we might actually get some things on this. You know so after all the hard work and sacrifice. Of the past five years to recover and rebuild from the crisis. What I think the American people -- really looking for imported fourteen is just. A -- to -- Let's just do the common sense thing let's do what's right. We're gonna have to require we're gonna have to see action on the part congress. And I'll -- -- -- work with them every step of the way. Action to help our business crave more the good jobs that are growing middle class requires action restore economic mobility reduce inequality. Action opened more doors of opportunity for everybody -- -- Work hard and walked through those doors. You know what I was listen to -- -- just so struck. By. Her strength and dignity. And I think people when they bump into some tough times. Like Catherine there there are looking for -- -- -- -- -- shot. And they just want to feel it. Here's -- feels if you know what as. As a part of this country is part of their communities. Bad if misfortune strikes. All the things that they've done in the past. All the hard work they've done raising children. Pay in taxes and working hard. -- the -- counts for something. The folks aren't some industry and dismiss their concerns but. -- Rallying. Behind. That's not to success. That's who we are as Americans that's what -- stuff. That's what I want -- -- So thank you very much everybody let's go to work let's get this done. -- -- -- to -- some of the White House today to extend long term unemployment benefits. Those that would be affected one point three million Americans that lost their benefits on the 28 of December. Long term unemployment. Is essentially qualifies as those being without work for 26 weeks or longer and. What is being debated now is the possibility of extending those benefits by 3 months and this morning the senate passed a procedural vote to begin debate. On whether those extensions should be granted. -- at some context of the so whenever any ABC's Devin Dwyer in Washington DC standing by listening to what the president said -- is that about what we were expecting from the president. That's right and this is something the president has teed up since leaving for Hawaii -- this three week two week holiday vacation that he wants to make the centerpiece. Of the new year he wants to start talking about incoming inequality. This unemployment. Insurance benefits he's been a key part of that we expect to hear him continue talking about. The minimum wage and of course the State of the Union Address is coming up at the end of the month so. This is a top party for the White House they see this as kind of -- setter for the year. And also as you heard him talk about their very emotional issue for offer for real Americans that those one point three million you talked about. Republicans would say they feel for those people too but there's just a disagreement right now. Over how to proceed over the over the over the funny on -- so when does the senate habits of a majority vote to pass the extension. Well that vote is expected some time out later this week they'll continue to debate this issue for for a few days. Of course if it passes the senate than it has to go to -- house we've heard today. From house speaker John Boehner who said he in a statement is supportive to some sort of an extension. But only if it's paid force -- again that is the catch even if it makes it out of the senate and it is -- that sixty vote threshold to get over these girls. It's likely facing even more uphill climb in in the house and that's been assured that -- exactly and just kind of recap on all of this procedural vote was set for yesterday correct. That's right last night the senate voted to approve. Janet Yellen is -- new fed chair. First woman to -- its share of the Federal Reserve board then they were gonna move to this unemployment. Vote and the abruptly called it off and ends senate majority leader Harry Reid moved it to today. A lot of senators couldn't make it in. Due to weather related travel delays more than a dozen. So they tabled the vote -- this morning they had the vote it was something of a cliff hanger a bit of a rare surprise in the senate. A lot of pundits here in town thought that it -- it might not have the votes to pass but it did enough Republicans five Republicans as we were saying just before the president took the podium. Voted in favor of advancing this bill and so. Now continue to watch this week to see the connection making progress. Before that you could -- -- DeVon wanted to ask you about this is far as the minimum wage because that is part of a larger discussion Democrats already looking ahead in -- discuss in a fight. Over minimum wage here is -- Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown. We -- -- strong bipartisan vote out of the senate. I think that means good news. For a minimum wage increase down the road. Sooner rather than later the last time we did minimum wage it was 2007 strong bipartisan vote in both houses. Signed by President Bush signed by the president the United States. We hoped to replicate that kind of effort in 2014. The DeVon how does this does today's vote how does the debate play into the larger -- progressive push for higher minimum wage. I think senator brown there was committee can't bit -- a -- to say that this vote would suggest. That minimum wage legislation would have a good chance of passing in fact it's probably even a longer shot than this simple unemployment insurance. Benefits extension which there's president. Four for for -- and and in an emergency. But it does highlight his comments -- highlight what Democrats want to make the major theme of 24 -- of course this is now an election year. All members of the House of Representatives are up for a -- re election in November many senators up for reelection as well and Democrats. After a very successful presidential campaign in 2012 where we heard President Obama campaign against Mitt Romney a lot of these same themes economic inequality. Boosting the middle class. The minimum wage a lot of those same themes -- are coming back we see that is a winning message. And they're hoping to kind of put the damper on some of that. Distraction in some of that Republican bluster over obamacare. Our ABC seven via Washington DC Devin thank you for that appreciate it of course. And it simply recap right here on ABC news conference on Dan Butler New York with this ABC news -- special report.

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

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