President Obama on Tuesday accused Republican critics who oppose extending federal unemployment benefits of selling “the American people short.

Shortly after the Senate voted to move a three-month extension of the benefits forward, Obama sought to tie himself to unemployed workers, whom he said were neither lazy nor lacking in motivation.


“I can't name a time when I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job,” Obama said. Unemployed workers are “coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations.”

The White House is using the unemployment fight as part of a broader effort aimed at winning over working-class and middle-class voters in a midterm election year. Much of the effort centers around issues of income inequality, and along with the unemployment issue, the White House is calling for a hike to the minimum wage.

House Republican leaders have said they will only consider an extension if its $6.4 billion cost is offset, and if it includes other provisions backed by Republicans.

It’s also unclear if the bill can win final passage in the Senate without being paid for.

The White House has argued the benefits are a form of emergency spending that should not need to be offset. But Senate and House Democrats on Tuesday expressed a willingness to consider offsets.

While Obama made an economic case for extending the program, saying they would stimulate the economy, most of his remarks were devoted to what he called the “values case” for extending the program.

Unemployed workers are “not looking for pity. They just want a shot,” Obama said. “They just want to feel as if as part of this country, as a part of their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all the things they've done in the past, all the hard work ... that that counts for something.”