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Obama scolds GOP over jobless benefits

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 19, 2010

Standing with three laid-off workers in the Rose Garden, President Obama on Monday chastised Senate Republicans for blocking an extension of jobless benefits, justifying the aid as emergency spending that has to be passed quickly.

Republicans repeatedly have balked at approving additional unemployment benefits without any offsetting cuts to the $34 billion the measure would add to the ballooning federal deficit. That objection has sparked cries of hypocrisy from Mr. Obama and his allies, who cite Republican support of former President George W. Bush's tax cuts, which also were not offset by spending cuts.

"The same people who didn't have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn't offer relief to middle-class Americans," said Mr. Obama, echoing the attack he made on Republicans in his weekly address.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is set to try again as early as Tuesday to push through the benefits package, which has failed three times to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats' chances will improve as Carte Goodwin, a former aide to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, is sworn in that day to replace the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, restoring Democrats to a 59-vote majority in the Senate and increasing the odds of ending a GOP-led filibuster.

"A partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks," Mr. Obama said of the trio of unemployed workers who joined him.

On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that Republicans aren't opposed to extending aid, but that it must be paid for with cuts elsewhere.

"If we can't pay for a program like extension of unemployment insurance that virtually every member of the Senate -- I think, in fact, every member of the Senate -- wants to extend, then what are we going to pay for? When do we start?" he said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" program.

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