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Policy: Entitlements

White House: Jobless benefits should be 'first new legislation' of 2014

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Politics,White House,Congress,Senate,Harry Reid,Entitlements,PennAve,Economy,Meghashyam Mali,Unemployment

The White House on Wednesday marked the new year by urging Congress to make extending unemployment benefits its top priority when lawmakers return to Washington.

“This New Year’s Day, there is likely less joy and more fear and distress in the homes of 1.3 million Americans who this week have seen their unemployment insurance suddenly cut off — a vital lifeline that these Americans depend on as they fight to find a job,” said National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling in a statement.

“There would be no better New Year’s resolution for Congress to make today than to commit to making the first new legislation for the new year the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance for those who have this week just been cut off,” he added.

Jobless benefits for 1.3 million Americans expired on Saturday after lawmakers failed to extend the aid in a bipartisan budget deal passed in December.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. told the AP that the upper chamber would vote on a three-month extension for unemployment benefits on Monday, when lawmakers return.

Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., have drafted a bill that would reinstate benefits for three months, but does not offset their cost.

“The President strongly supports Majority Leader Harry Reid's commitment to bring the bipartisan Reed-Heller bill for a vote the very first day the Senate returns on January 6th,” said Sperling. “By temporarily extending emergency unemployment insurance for three months, this bipartisan bill will provide benefits for over 2 million Americans when they need it most, and we urge every member of Congress to support this vitally important bill.”

It is unclear though if a bill to extend jobless benefits would pass the GOP-controlled House, where many conservatives oppose approving the aid without offsets.

Sperling on Wednesday warned that more Americans would be harmed if Congress delayed action.

“Failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance through 2014 will negatively impact 14 million Americans — the 4.9 million workers who will see unemployment insurance cut off and the approximately 9 million additional family members they are supporting,” he said.

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