POLITICS

Obama rekindles ‘poor’ war

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Politics,Chris Stirewalt,Power Play

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OBAMA REKINDLES ‘POOR’ WAR - President Obama today will officially launch his latest assault on income inequality. Fresh from weeks of Hawaiian recreation, Obama is expected to harangue Republicans for their resistance to a $6.4 billion welfare package to give aid to those who have exhausted state unemployment insurance. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote for this morning on the measure, but doesn’t seem to have the five GOP votes necessary to advance the spending bill. His home-state colleague Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is on board and Obama seems to have delivered the support of moderate Maine Republican Susan Collins, who sounded favorable after a Monday chat with Obama – an unusual move for a president famous for frosty relations with members on both sides of the aisle. To get three more votes, though, Reid might need to offer GOPers the chance to amend the bill, at which point they would surely force uncomfortable considerations like paying for it.

[“It's not paid for. So it's about borrowing money from children in the future to pay for a benefit today. The real job is why aren't we creating jobs and why aren't we moving the economy and why aren't we picking the fiscal mess that's here? Why aren't we creating the confidence that needs to be developed for that to happen?” – Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on “Fox & Friends.”]   

Pass or smash - The White House push for the spending bill is predicated on long-term unemployment being a crisis. Top Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling told reporters, “We have never, over the last half-century, cut off emergency unemployment benefits when long-term unemployment was even barely over half the rate that we have right now.” Of course, neither have federal benefits to the unemployed continued for as long as they have, stretching back to the panic of 2008. Republicans, including moderates like Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., aren’t keen on the idea of an unconditional extension. If they say “no” to Reid’s demand today, however, they can expect a thorough sliming by the president in a speech scheduled for just after the vote. Obama doesn’t seem to think it will pass, given that the White House has invited those whose benefits have expired to stand behind the president for the event.

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