Although the jobless rate in November fell to its lowest level since he took office, President Obama called on Republican lawmakers Saturday to spend tens of billions on unemployment benefits that are set to expire this month.
“It shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. But he said the “economic lifeline” is in jeopardy.
“All because Republicans in this Congress — which is on track to be the most unproductive in history — have so far refused to extend it” Mr. Obama said.
If Congress doesn’t act before lawmakers leave on their holiday break, about 1.3 million unemployed Americans will see their benefits run out. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated it would cost taxpayers about $26 billion to extend the benefits through next year.
The jobless rate in November dropped from 7.3 percent to 7 percent, its lowest level of Mr. Obama’s presidency. But the president said that’s no reason to cut off benefits for those still out of work.
“The hole that we’re still digging out of means that there are still millions of Americans looking for work — often because they’ve been laid off through no fault of their own,” Mr. Obama said. “These are people we know. They’re our friends and neighbors.”
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Congressional negotiators are closing in on a deal to end the so-called “sequester” budget cuts and increase spending in 2014. But so far the potential deal doesn’t include an extension of unemployment insurance.
Most economists say unemployment benefits help the economy because recipients spend the money quickly on daily household needs.
“If Congress refuses to act, it won’t just hurt families already struggling – it will actually harm our economy,” the president said. “Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy.”