WH ups pressure for passage of jobless aid

The White House on Wednesday increased its pressure on Congress to extend long-term jobless aid, when it reconvenes next week.

Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, said the administration is behind Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) vow to bring up a cloture vote on a temporary extension when the Senate reconvenes Monday.

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“This New Year’s Day, there is likely less joy and more fear and distress in the homes of 1.3 million Americans who this week have seen their unemployment insurance suddenly cut off,” Sperling said in a statement.

The long-term aid expired Saturday, after Congress failed to include an extension in the budget deal hashed out in December.

Sperling said the extension of benefits has never been allowed to lapse in the past with long-term unemployment as high as it is today.

“In more than 50 years, we have never cut off emergency unemployment insurance when the rate of long-term unemployment was even above 50 percent of its current level, even though none of those recessions were nearly as deep as the one we are now recovering from,” he said.

Sperling warned 4.9 million workers would be directly affected if the aid were not extended through the end of the year. He also asserted an extension would lead to 200,000 new jobs that would increase economic growth by a percentage point.

He pointed out the long-term federal aid is only needed as long as the unemployment rate remains high and is only provided to those actively seeking work.

Reid told The Associated Press he would schedule a vote on a three-month extension to the program on Monday. The proposal is sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

Reid said he hoped the Senate could get it done but offered no prediction of its chances in the House.

Republican leaders in the House have not weighed in but have insisted the cost of any renewal of the jobless benefits be offset. The Senate bill provides no offsets and comes with a $6.4 billion price tag, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“We urge every member of Congress to support this vitally important bill,” Sperling said.