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Monday, July 19,2010

Obama pushes GOP to extend unemployment benefits

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON — On the eve of a vote to extend jobless benefits, President Barack Obama on Monday urged Republican senators to set aside partisanship and vote for a package that would provide relief to 2.5 million out-of-work Americans.

Obama appeared in the Rose Garden to make his case, one day before the Senate was expected to hold a key procedural vote on extending unemployment benefits. The vote is set to take place 15 minutes after the Senate swears in a new Democratic senator from West Virginia, replacing the late Sen. Robert Byrd, giving Democrats the votes they need to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Obama noted that Republicans voted to extend jobless benefits under his GOP predecessor, George W. Bush, but had been unwilling to do so now.

"For a long time, there has been a tradition under both Democratic and Republican presidents to offer relief to the unemployed," he said. "That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republicans several times voted to extend emergency unemployment benefits."

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio fired back. In a prepared statement, Boehner said: "The president knows that Republicans support extending unemployment insurance, and doing it in a fiscally responsible way by cutting spending elsewhere in the $3 trillion federal budget."

Senate Republicans repeatedly have used the filibuster to block the legislation, saying the $33.9 billion should be paid for rather than added to the national debt. They suggest taking unused money from economic recovery funds to pay the cost.

Obama introduced three people who had lost their jobs and struggled to find work, making the point that jobless benefits were a humane gesture in a tough economy.

Standing next to him at the lectern was Jim Chukalas of New Jersey, who lost his job at a Honda dealership two years ago. His unemployment benefits had run out, the White House said.

Chukalas, the president said, had "gone door to door looking for a job and hasn't gotten a single interview. He's trying to be strong for his young kids now that he's exhausted his unemployment benefits."

Obama did not take questions after the event, returning immediately to the Oval Office.


(c)2010, Tribune Co.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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