President Obama on Saturday renewed his call for Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits in his weekly address.
“This will be a year of action,” Obama said. “And that action should begin by extending unemployment benefits for Americans who were laid off in the recession through no fault of their own.”
Obama touted Senate progress on a bipartisan bill that would provide a three-month aid extension for the 1.3 million Americans who lost benefits on Dec. 28.
The measure, co-sponsored Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., cleared a procedural hurdle on Tuesday and is expected to get a vote next week.
“Congress needs to finish the job right away,” Obama said, adding that some 14 million Americans would be hurt by a benefits lapse.
In making his case, Obama pushed back on conservative criticism of unemployment benefits.
“This vital economic lifeline helps people support their families while they look for a new job,” he said. “And it demands responsibility in return by requiring that they prove they’re actively looking for work.”
Obama's vow to do more on economic issues follows Friday's weak jobs report, which saw the unemployment rate dip below 7 percent, to 6.7 percent, but the U.S. economy add just 74,000 jobs in December.
“Across our broader economy, there are signs of progress,” Obama said, assigning some credit to his signature domestic achievement.
“Thanks in part to the reforms in the Affordable Care Act, health care costs now eat up less of our economy,” he said.
Looking ahead, Obama previewed a theme of his Jan. 28 State of the Union address: leveling the economic playing field.
“I will mobilize the country around the national mission of making sure our economy offers everyone who works hard a fair shot at opportunity and success,” he said.