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Policy: Economy

Obama criticizes Congress for leaving Washington without extending unemployment benefits

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President Obama used his year-end press conference Friday to criticize Congress for leaving Washington for Christmas without reauthorizing extended unemployment benefits, which are set to expire on Dec. 28 for 1.3 million Americans.

Obama warned that those workers were about to “lose a vital economic lifeline at Christmastime."

"I think we’re better than that," the president said. "We don’t abandon each other when times are tough.”

Obama suggested that Congress' "first order of business should be making this right” when lawmakers return in early January. He urged both parties to support legislation introduced by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., for a three-month extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

Otherwise, however, Obama talked up the state of the U.S. economy, noting recent improved growth and boasting that "more Americans are finding work and experiencing the pride of a paycheck."

He also expressed optimism about the government working better to aid the economy. Citing the recent deal struck between Republicans and Democrats for funding the government for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 that "unwinds" some of the sequestration cuts that took effect in 2013, Obama said that it's "too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it's also fair to say we’re not condemned to endless gridlock."

"I think 2014 needs to be a year of action," Obama declared.

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