Obama urges Senate to pass unemployment extension bill
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday called for Senate Republicans to stop blocking extended unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are out of work, Xinhua reported.
"It's time to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work and extend unemployment insurance," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
He accused Senate Republicans for "holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics."
The bill, formally known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation, is a U.S. federal government program which assists states in providing additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers who have been laid off due to no fault of their own.
The legislation, which has already cleared the House of Representatives on July 1, would retroactively restore benefits to recipients who as early as the end of May may have started losing their benefits. The Senate is scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.
Republicans have successfully blocked the bill from clearing the Senate for three times, quoting the additional budgetary burden as their main concern.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed Sunday that Republicans are "all for extending unemployment insurance" but not in favor of deficit spending.
"They've taken the deficit as a percentage of GDP from 3.2 percent to almost 10 percent in a year and a half," McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Somewhere in the course of spending a trillion dollars, we ought to be able to find enough to pay for a program for the unemployed."
Obama also urged the Senate to act this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, the two other legislative priorities Obama and Democrats agreed to last week following the passage of the financial regulation bill.