Democrats: Extension of jobless benefits 'Job One' in 2014

Dec. 28, 2013 at 9:15 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Democratic congressional leaders say an extension of federal jobless benefits is their top priority when the House and Senate reconvene in January.

They may not get much support from some Republicans, who contend lawmakers' efforts should be focused on creating jobs, the Hill reported Saturday.

About 1.3 million Americans lost their federal unemployment benefits Saturday after a renewal of the program was not included in a compromise budget signed by President Obama.

The president backs a bill proposed by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., that would extend benefits for three months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said the extension will be the first item he will bring up for consideration in 2014.

House Republicans are already being pressured to act quickly on the extension. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday blamed the GOP for the expiration of benefits, an action she called "immoral."

Some Republicans oppose renewing federal unemployment insurance, noting the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November. They say a three-month extension would cost $6 billion, and a yearlong extension $26 billion. They want Democrats to put forth a specific plan. Other Republicans, such as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, want to see the costs offset by spending cuts.

Such GOP concerns are off-target, Pelosi says. In her statement Friday, she said, "Every dollar invested in this initiative yields $1.52 in economic growth, and an extension of UI [unemployment insurance] could produce as many as 300,000 jobs,"

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