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Obama: GOP choosing politics over people

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Obama: GOP choosing politics over people
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the economy and the need to extend unemployment benefits at the White House in Washington on July 19, 2010. Obama was joined by Jim Chukalas, an unemployed parts manager from New Jersey, and Leslie Macko, an unemployed aesthetician from Charlottesville, Virginia. Congress is expected to take up a vote on extending benefits tomorrow. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama ripped Senate Republicans for blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, saying they're putting politics ahead of the American people.

The Senate has tried three times to extend jobless benefits, and is scheduled to vote on another proposal Tuesday.

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"Each (previous) time, the minority party used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote denying millions of people who are out of work much needed relief," a visibly angry Obama said Monday during remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

The GOP leadership has the "misguided notion that emergency relief discourages people from looking for a job," Obama said. "That attitude ... reflects a lack of faith in the American people. The Americans I hear from ... are not looking for a handout. They're desperately wanting to work."

He chastised Senate Republicans who "didn't have any problems" passing tax cuts for wealthier Americans but now say "we shouldn't offer relief to middle-class Americans who really need help."

He called on the Senate not only to pass the emergency unemployment benefits extension but also approve a package of tax credits and cuts for small businesses to spur economic growth and hiring.

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While working to improve the U.S. economy, Washington has the responsibility "to offer emergency assistance to people who desperately need it," said Obama, flanked by several people who have been unemployed for some time. "We've a responsibility to help them make ends meet and support their families even as they look for a job."

Congress traditionally has been bipartisan in helping people in times of need, he said.

"We will have another chance," he said. "I hope we seize it. It's time to stop holding workers hostage" to election-year politics.

"(There) are times when you put elections aside," Obama said. "This is one of those times."

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