An exasperated President Obama tried to turn up the heat this morning on the GOP for its opposition to a bill extending jobless benefits. So far the GOP has blocked the latest effort extend unemployment insurance to cover the growing ranks of longterm unemployed three times. Congress has repeatedly stumbled in its effort to keep the program going throughout 2010.
Obama said in a Rose Garden speech this morning that it has been standard practice for similar bills to gain bipartisan support, especially in times of economic hardship. Obama accused Republicans of political posturing and pleaded that “elections be put aside” to help “middle class Americans.” With unemployment at just under 10 percent—more than 15 percent for African Americans and 12.4 percent for Latinos—there are roughly five job seekers for every job opening, as the Economic Policy Institute details. (Scroll down for more.)
Obama called out Republicans for “championing” policies that led this country into financial ruin and giving too many breaks to the rich Obama. “The same people who didn’t have any problems spending hundreds of millions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans,” said Obama, “are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle class Americans….who really need help”
Calling the GOP a “partisan minority,” Obama blamed Republicans for holding the bill hostage with filibusters “not once, not twice, but three times.”
After Republicans—with the notable help of some conservative Democrats—filibustered a broader jobs bill the first time around, Democrats separated unemployment benefit. With the passing of West Virginia Sen, Robert Byrd, however, the Democrats do not have the needed three votes to move the stand-alone bill. Another vote to extend benefits for the Americans will be scheduled tomorrow.
If the fourth attempt is refuted, another 1.2 million Americans who have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks will be severed from unemployment benefits. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 2.5 million people had lost benefits as of July 17. The average unemployed worker has been without a job for 34 weeks.
“Tomorrow we will have another chance to offer them that relief. Do right,” said Obama.
Photo: WASHINGTON - JULY 19: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press at the Rose Garden of the White House July 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama called on the Congress to extend the long-term unemployment benefits to assist Americans that are still out of work. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)