Obama pushes GOP to extend unemployment benefits

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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.

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