Dem: Let's call welfare 'transitional living fund'

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) suggested on Wednesday that Congress should start stop calling federal programs "welfare," and instead give them a name that reflects their use as transition payments by people who find themselves in need of temporary help.

"Maybe the word 'welfare' should be changed to something of a 'transitional living fund,' for that is what it is, for people to be able to live," she said on the House floor.

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Jackson Lee and many other Democrats have called on Congress to quickly extend emergency unemployment benefits that were put in place in 2008 but expired on Dec. 28. Jackson Lee said 1.3 million Americans have lost these benefits and said she is open to finding offsets to pay for the $6.4 billion cost of an extension.

"Why not a compromise?" she asked. "Why not a three-month emergency extension and then a deliberation on the offset? Well, that probably will not be heard."

House GOP leaders have said they would only consider an extension that is paid for and includes provisions aimed at helping people find work. Senate Democrats have indicated they would consider Republican ideas, but the Obama administration has signaled it does not want a pay-for in the bill.

Jackson Lee spoke on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty and said emergency benefits are an important part of government programs aimed at helping the poor. She cited food stamps, job training and other programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

"Huge safety nets, not handouts, but safety nets," she said.