The looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits for more than 1 million Americans is “simply immoral,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday.
In a statement, the Democratic leader said it's inexcusable that the benefits will lapse on Saturday, and blamed Republicans for allowing it to happen.
Pelosi and other Democrats blasted, but did not try to block, a two-year budget agreement Congress passed just before its holiday break for not including another extension of the jobless benefits.
Meanwhile, Republicans contend that Democrats dropped the ball by not offering a specific plan to cover the costs of an extension before heading home for the holidays.
"Why didn't they offer a plan that met the Speaker's requirements - fiscally-responsible, with something to create jobs - or any plan, for that matter, before they left for the holidays?" said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he plans to bring up an extension as his first order of business in 2014, but some Republicans have indicated they would only be willing to extend the program if the cost of another extension is offset elsewhere.
The emergency federal benefits were first put in place during the 2008 recession, and Congress has opted extending them repeatedly since then.
The program allows the federal government to help states provide much longer unemployment benefits than normally permitted, running up to 73 weeks so long as people are looking for work.
But with the extended benefits headed for a Saturday expiration, roughly 1.3 million unemployed Americans will immediately lose those benefits, while millions more could lose benefits throughout 2014 if they are not extended.
Some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), have opposed another extension, arguing the economy has recovered enough to end the emergency lifeline.
Other GOP lawmakers have not said they would oppose an extension, but are concerned about the roughly $26 billion cost of extending the program for another year. Pelosi has said she does not believe that cost has to be offset, arguing the program does more good for the economy than it costs.
President Obama has also called on Congress to extend the benefits, while Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he is willing to consider a specific proposal if the president offers it.