Policy: Economy

Scott Walker: Unemployment benefits, minimum wage push because Obama 'desperately' wants to avoid Obamacare

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dismissed the White House's push to extend emergency unemployment benefits and raise the minimum wage Sunday morning, criticizing Democrats' all-out push for legislation as an effort to distract from the recent problems with the new health care law.

"They want to desperately talk about anything other than Obamacare,” said Walker, a conservative Republican being mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Walker was rebutting a call by White House economic adviser Gene Sperling, who on the same program called for a three-month extension of jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed.

Walker indicated that he was not necessarily opposed to extending the benefits, but said that unemployment insurance needed reform. He cited reforms in his state requiring the jobless to actively search for jobs five times a week, not just twice.

"If I was out of work I’d look for a job every day except for maybe today, I’d be in church praying for a job," Walker said.

The Wisconsin governor also suggested requiring employment training so that recipients are "ready to get in the game" when a job opens up, as Wisconsin did.

As for the minimum wage, Walker warned that "artificially raising the minimum wage" through the federal or state governments would not create high-paying jobs, and that it could raise youth unemployment, which he noted was already high.

When challenged to explain why an unemployed or minimum wage worker would vote Republican given his stance on the issues affecting them, Walker responded that "in the end what people want is freedom and opportunity. You don’t get that through the mighty hand of the government."

Walker dodged question about whether his new book, Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge, meant he would be running for president in 2016.

Walker said he was focused on his own 2014 re-election campaign and his work in Wisconsin. He also avoided weighing in on tensions between GOP leadership and Tea Party members in the House, saying that "the Tea Party to a degree is healthy if it's focused in the right way."

The Tea Party, he said, should focus on defeating vulnerable Democratic senators in places like Louisiana and Arkansas rather than putting up primary challengers to fellow Republican incumbents who are deemed insufficiently conservative.

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