President Obama turned to newly elected mayors Friday to press for an extension of unemployment benefits and an increase in the minimum wage, legislative goals that have both stalled on Capitol Hill.
“You’ve got potentially 1.3 million people who, during Christmas-time, are going to lose their unemployment benefits, at a time when it’s still very difficult for a lot of folks to find a job,” Obama said before a gathering with the city leaders Friday at the White House.
“That's not just bad for those individuals and for those families, that's bad for our economy and that's bad for our cities,” he added.
The president met with New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Boston Mayor-elect Martin Walsh, among other city executives.
Unemployment insurance is set to expire for 1.3 million Americans on Dec. 28. Democrats wanted the benefits included in a recent budget deal negotiated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his upper chamber counterpart Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., but the negotiators failed to agree on terms.
The House passed a version of the bipartisan budget pact but did not include an extension of jobless benefits. The Senate is expected to pass the budget bill next week and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said unemployment insurance will get first priority in January. It is likely lawmakers will make the benefits retroactive.
Some conservatives, however, say extending the benefits beyond 26 weeks keeps some people perpetually unemployed.
The president also called for a boost in the minimum wage, a State of the Union proposal that has gained little traction among conservative lawmakers.
Earlier in the year, Obama called for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.
However, he recently voiced support for a Democratic bill that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
“There are some areas — for example, raising the minimum wage — that could have a tremendous boost in a lot of the cities,” Obama said, “where there are a lot of service workers who get up and do some of the critical work for all of us every single day but often times still find themselves just barely above poverty or, in some cases, below poverty.”