White House backs three-month extension of jobless benefits

The White House on Wednesday said it supports Sen. Jack Reed's (D-R.I.) call for a three-month extension of the unemployment benefits that are slated to expire on Dec. 31.

"We strongly support it," senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said at a breakfast hosted by Politico.

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Jarrett added that the White House believed the legislation would pass with a "bipartisan" vote and stressed the administration believed it was "very important" that it gets passed.

On Tuesday, Reed called extending the unemployment benefits "critical of our economy" during a speech on the Senate floor.

“This safety net is really there not just for [the unemployed] but everyone,” Reed said.

The federal jobless benefits have been made available after state benefits are exhausted, usually after around half a year. The administration says 1.3 million people would lose their benefits if the program is not extended before Dec. 28.

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday the administration "absolutely expects" Congress to take up an extension of unemployment benefits upon returning from the holiday break.

"Unfortunately, the House is leaving tomorrow — they've made clear that they go on recess for the holiday tomorrow," Carney said last week. "And if Congress does not act in time before those benefits expire, we would absolutely expect them to act as soon as possible upon their return."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said his chamber wouldn't vote on extending the benefits before the program expires on Dec. 28.

"We’re going to push for an extension for unemployment insurance when the Senate returns here next year,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

Reid blamed Senate Republicans, who have refused to yield back time during the debate on nominations. Republicans have pushed full debate on nominees to protest the rule change from Democrats that abolished the filibuster on presidential nominations below the Supreme Court level.

Carney defended the White House not insisting that the extension be included in the bipartisan budget deal announced earlier this week.

"We don't believe that it has to be attached to anything," Carney said.

He said the White House would continue to lobby congressional leaders about the issue.