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January 04, 2014

Obama Urges Congress To Restore Unemployment Benefits

WASHINGTON — President Obama, seeking the upper hand with Congress as he heads back from his Hawaiian vacation, insisted on Saturday that lawmakers make restoring unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans who are out of work their “first order of business” in the new year.

An emergency program providing up to 47 weeks of supplemental payments to the long-term unemployed expired last month after Congress did not include an extension in a two-year budget deal passed before it left town for the holidays. Mr. Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday that he would sign legislation renewing the benefits for another three months.
Mr. Obama said the program helped parents trying to feed children while they looked for work. “And denying families that security is just plain cruel,” the president said in the address, which was taped before his scheduled departure for Washington on Saturday night after two weeks on Oahu. “We’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough; we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.”
Mr. Obama added, “Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.”
Some Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, are open to renewing the benefits as long as the cost can be offset. They have complained that Democrats did not offer such a plan before leaving the capital last month.
Other Republicans have more philosophical objections, arguing that extending benefits beyond the basic program merely consigns jobless workers to the ranks of the perpetually unemployed by removing an incentive to finding work.
In their own weekly address, Republicans focused on another spending initiative that would direct more money to research to help children with autism, cancer and other diseases. The money would be taken from federal money set aside to pay for the two parties’ presidential nominating conventions. The House passed the plan last month on a lopsided bipartisan vote and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
“Instead of funding these conventions once every four years, we’ll make it a daily priority to explore the full potential of clinical trials and advancements,” said Representative Gregg Harper, a Mississippi Republican and a sponsor of the legislation.
The bill, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, was renamed last fall for a 10-year-old Virginia girl with an inoperable brain tumor who drew attention for her efforts to promote pediatric cancer research; she later died.
Mr. Harper noted that he had a personal interest in the proposal. “Livingston, our oldest, was 4 when he was diagnosed with fragile X syndrome, a disorder that is often misdiagnosed as autism,” he said. “Today, he’s making his way through college in a program for students with intellectual disabilities.”


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