Obama: Extend unemployment insurance
January 4th, 2014
09:16 AM ET
8 months ago

Obama: Extend unemployment insurance

(CNN) - President Barack Obama on Saturday called for bipartisan legislation to extend unemployment insurance, an all-important benefit for the longtime out-of-work.

"Just a few days after Christmas, more than 1 million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline - the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job," Obama said in his weekly address.


"Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire. And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all."

The insurance expired last week when lawmakers failed to continue a 2008 recession-era federal law providing nearly a year of benefits, paid for by U.S. taxpayers, that kicked in when state jobless benefits ran out.

Congress will start the new year with an old fight: whether to extend jobless benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed. Obama urged lawmakers to restore the benefits.

"Right now, a bipartisan group in Congress is working on a three-month extension of unemployment insurance - and if they pass it, I will sign it. For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today. Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year's resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now," Obama said.

Democrats argue the program is needed to sustain economic recovery and offer a lifeline to those struggling to keep their heads above water financially. Republicans counter the benefits are an economic drain and a disincentive to looking for work. The Congressional Budget Office estimates continuing them for another year will cost about $26 billion.

Many Republicans, including potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have long insisted that the Great Recession-era extension of emergency federal benefits deters job hunting and is unnecessary as the economy rebounds and unemployment declines.

Obama said denial of the security provided by the benefits "is just plain cruel."

"We're a better country than that. We don't abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough - we keep the faith with them until they start that new job," he said.

"What's more, it actually slows down the economy for all of us. If folks can't pay their bills or buy the basics, like food and clothes, local businesses take a hit and hire fewer workers. That's why the independent Congressional Budget Office says that unless Congress restores this insurance, we'll feel a drag on our economic growth this year. And after our businesses created more than 2 million new jobs last year, that's a self-inflicted wound we don't need," Obama said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, plans to hold the first vote toward renewing the benefits on Monday, the day the Senate returns from its holiday recess. It will be a procedural test of a proposal to stretch the program another three months.

Democrats do not yet know whether they have enough Republican support to get the 60 votes necessary to clear the procedural hurdle, a senior leadership aide told CNN. The fight has played out repeatedly over the past few years as the two parties clashed in often dramatic showdowns rife with fiery rhetoric and lengthy filibusters.


Filed under: President Obama • unemployment
soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. mer

    gee, where has he been on this???

    January 4, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. uncdig

    Please cooperate with me – Obama
    It's my way or the highway – I will not negotiate – Obama
    Go ahead Charlie Brown, I won't pull the football out before you kick – I promise – Obama

    January 4, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  3. Enough is Enough

    Yea, let the administration that has run up more debt than ALL administrations before them attempt to buy more votes with the taxpayers money! What was intended to be a safety net has turned into a safety couch. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day....teach a man to fish and he will never again go hungry.

    January 4, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    GOP the most idiotic Law is Shut-Down government to defund ACA, them cry on Benghazi, then cry on NSA though it is promulgated by Patriotic Act, then go to SC to obstruct healthcare which SC struck down, then take bribe from NRA thugs, them defeat UNEMPLOYMENT benefit to tarnish THIS president 20 years down the road–GOP only way Wars, like Iraq, drain treasury, Hilliburton contracts, Iran-contra affairs–USA better vote out all GOP animals from congress, senate. Pass term-limits, immigration reform, voter reform. God bless!!!!!!!

    January 4, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  5. Donna

    How do the Democrats propose to pay for this $26 billion welfare extension? WIll they cut funds to their green energy boondoogles? Will they cut any of the absolutely nutty research studies they pay millions for? Will they ask their union friends to pay the taxes others are paying under Obamacare but which they want waivers for?

    Republicans will agree if you show how this will be paid for. Or do you just intend to add the $26 billion to the mountain of debt on our kids and grand kids? Obamacare is adding another $50 billion in taxes to the government coffers this year. Surely you can find something, some redundant department or progran to cancel? Show the country for once that you can be fiscally responsible.

    January 4, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  6. ora pike

    make people accountable then the benefits.
    1. have to go to an office once a week to get their check.
    2. drug tests
    3. signed letters from at least 5 companies where they tried to get employment.
    4. after 3 months in 2014-to get more unemployment-have jobs assigned to them by the local office. This
    can be to improve one block at a time, to clean what needs to be cleaned,etc.

    For those who are honest and tr ying this will work-for those who just won't work-it won't and shouldn't.

    You don't build up a person by giving them free meals AND we need accountability.

    January 4, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  7. rs

    It doesn't matter to the GOP that the amount of funding needed for 3-months of extended unemployment coverage is imperceptible in the budget (and easily found elsewhere in the budget), or that unemployment funds (like other social assistance dollars) are highly stimulative to the economy; nor does it matter that these folks obviously need these funds -in their own states. No, it is winter, and the GOP simply wishes to punish the poor- some more.
    Bottom line: There is no logical reason to not make this extension- except being GOP.

    January 4, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  8. Gt

    Pay for it...to many are abuse it...

    January 4, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  9. rla

    You fool!!! Craft a policy that creates more private sector jobs!!! I am sick of this give away money we don't have to fix a problem I wish you had actually worked on over the last 5 years.. Progressives are out of touch!

    January 4, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  10. Gunderson

    Humm,
    After 5 years of blaming your predicessor why isn't unemployment down to 4 percent? Clue: Get rid of Obama Care and jobs will start to come back!

    January 4, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    In a word .........NO.

    You claim the economy has improved. If that is true, then it is NOT needed. If it isn't true, then you need to stop lying to all of the people all of the time!

    January 4, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. Stuffitu

    Isn't it amazing the way libertards defame, degrade and demean members of the TEA part who are willing to take a moral stand on issues whole they will lie cheat and steal to win elections and deceive people like Obozo did. Even more amazing is that they get away with it thanks to the national baby sitting service provided by the corrupt NEA.

    January 4, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. wendel

    the repos have no feelings for the poor unemployed or uninsured. . They play only to their base, rich old white guys who pretend to be Christian so they can make lots of money selling guns and poker cards with ducks on them.

    January 4, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  14. Tampa Tim

    Extending unemployment benefits actually creates jobs, but has a snow balls chance in hell of passing the domestic terrorist controlled house. The prospects of getting any meaningful legislation from the house is zero. Taking away women's reproductive rights, repealing the ACA, reducing benefits for veterans and the poor, tax cuts for the wealthy, seem to be the only things baggers care about.

    January 4, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. CB FL

    What the REPUGS want to do is not extend these benefits because of the cost. Then what happens is a lot of these people will go on welfare and food stamps which will cost a lot more on the budget and put a big burden on the states that these people live. So once again math and common sense will not be allowed.

    January 4, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  16. aj

    Finally Rand Paul has acknowledge the economy has improved.

    January 4, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Tampa Tim

    Ever wonder how we are going to pay for the $26 billion the republicans cost us in their shut down. Wasting money seems to be a republican trait.

    January 4, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. Mike in Texas

    Had we kept the tax rates at Clinton's levels or even raised them to pay for Afghanistan and Iraq and Medicare D was actually paid for as well our debt would be nowhere near where it is. Had there been regulation on the bundling of loans and the selling of them as investments we would not have needed TARP. Donna, when Republicans were in control of the House, Senate and White House they didn't make sure anything was paid for. Look at the above things and tell me how they were paid for. They weren't, we borrowed from China. Only when the Democrats took control of Congress and then the White House did Republicans care about deficits.

    January 4, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. Mike in Texas

    Amazing how people blame the ACA for no jobs. How is it that companies are making record profits and not hiring? Why is it morally acceptable for Wal Mart and McDonalds to make huge profits but pay their employees wages so low they need government assistance? How is morally acceptable that Apple which may be the most profitable company in the country continues to make phones in China and not the United States? Starbucks and Costco pay their employees a better wage and provide benefits. They have happier workers too. Do they have to do it? No; but they choose to. So why don't Wal Mart, McDonald's and Apple do what Starbucks does? Because they don't have to. The law doesn't require it and left to their own accord, they will seek to maximize profits to the fullest extent. The companies I mentioned above could pay their employees better wages or move jobs to the U.S. and still make a tidy profit without raising prices. Sure, their profit may not be as high but in the end the greater of the people benefit, not just a few rich CEO's and investors.

    January 4, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. rs

    Donna
    How do the Democrats propose to pay for this $26 billion welfare extension? WIll they cut funds to their green energy boondoogles? Will they cut any of the absolutely nutty research studies they pay millions for? Will they ask their union friends to pay the taxes others are paying under Obamacare but which they want waivers for?

    Republicans will agree if you show how this will be paid for. Or do you just intend to add the $26 billion to the mountain of debt on our kids and grand kids? Obamacare is adding another $50 billion in taxes to the government coffers this year. Surely you can find something, some redundant department or progran to cancel? Show the country for once that you can be fiscally responsible.
    -----
    How about the $40 billion in "incentives" the GOP loves for big oil?

    January 4, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. Mike in Texas

    @ Donna,

    Were you as upset at the Republicans as you are at the Democrats when they supported two unpaid for wars? For unpaid Medicare D? For unpaid tax cuts? PAYGO started in 1990 and expired in 2002. It was responsible for balancing the budget and creating surpluses. A Republican congress could have extended the PAYGO requirements but let it expire in 2003. Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 was passed in 2003 with almost all votes in favor being Republican. Vice President Cheney broke the 50-50 tie in the Senate. This Act provided unpaid tax cuts. Next was Medicare D passed again with almost only Republican votes is estimated to cost almost $550 billion dollars between 2006 and 2015. The White House even admitted this law would not meet the PAYGO requirements. So you are in a tizzy over $26 billion dollars that will be pumped back into the economy but I bet you didn't blink an eye at any of the information I posted above.

    January 4, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  22. SeniorMoment

    The economy needs to be adding twice as many jobs per month as the best monthly increase to have any chance of reemploying the workers let go in 1999-2002 for whom being long term unemployed and unwilling to relocated are the biggest obstacles to reemployment. During the Clinton Administration that much job growth did occur and we should take a lesson from that Presidency and start paying down the National Debt regardless of how painful it is for those taxpayers left and it starts with no more special accounting rules for business taxation and a minimum taxation level for all businesses to stay in business. I read that Boeing made $35.5 billion in profit over the last decade while paying no net state taxes outside of the State of Washington even though it has factories and suppliers all over the nation. That simply is not right.

    January 4, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  23. jeremy

    Obama signed the budget eliminating the benefits. Why backpedal now?

    January 4, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  24. Marcus

    The liberals dear leader is getting desperate. This didn't matter to him a couple of weeks ago so now when this has slim and no chance of passing he now is "standing up" for you little people...such a phony and a liar. I guess we can forgot about his 3rd term huh?

    January 4, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  25. Gurgyl

    -–how idiotic these guys are! When it came to our own American people, you remember debt, how about Bush spent in Pakistan 30 billion yearly, trillions in Iraq war? Hid in Swiss, Cayman Islands? Obama needs to reform Tax code too with voter reform, immigration. GOP way, nonsense way. Pathetic, be educated first.

    January 4, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
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