Congress should keep extending unemployment benefits indefinitely, a top House Democrat asserted Friday.

On the heels of news that the economy shed 85,000 jobs in December -- more than were expected -- Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, said Congress should continue to extend benefits to jobless people.

"We have extended unemployment benefits twice to unemployed Americans who are looking very hard, and trying to find a job," Maloney said during an appearance on CNBC. "I believe we should continue extending them, otherwise it's just welfare or food stamps."

The Congress has moved emergency legislation twice already to allow weeks of additional unemployment insurance to individuals who are out of work, but continue to seek employment.

Republicans had initially opposed elements of previous extension of unemployment benefits, but voted with Democrats to extend benefits.

Democrats have taken up a number of efforts to boost employment going into 2010's midterm elections, including spending, which some have considered a second "stimulus," more directed toward creating jobs.

Maloney said that lawmakers have begun informally talking to large and small companies alike to field ideas on how to boost employment.