President Obama told Republicans Monday morning that they should “do the right thing” and extend unemployment insurance regardless of election-year politics.
But some Republicans were crying foul early Monday, pointing out that a vote has already been scheduled for Tuesday and that with a new senator from West Virginia sworn in, Obama appears to have the votes for passage.
Still, Obama blasted Senate Republicans for “holding workers laid off in this recession hostage.”
Obama and his Democratic allies are working to portray the GOP as beholden to the wealthy and indifferent to working-class families hurt by the global financial collapse and a high national unemployment rate.
“I know it’s getting close to an election, but there are times when you put an election aside,” Obama said. “This is one of those times.”
The president said Republicans who are “advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job” should talk to unemployed people who are looking for jobs on a daily basis.
“That attitude, I think, reflects a lack of faith in the American people,” Obama said. “They’re not looking for a hand-out. They desperately want to work. They just can’t find a job.”
With financial reform passed and ready for Obama’s signature on Wednesday, the White House has turned immediately to the two other legislative priorities Obama and Democrats agreed to last week.
Obama urged Congress to act on both priorities this week, urging passage of the unemployment insurance extension and a small-business tax cut package.
Senate Republicans, who have blocked the extension three times, say Democrats should be honest about the cost of extending benefits and offset the expense in the budget.
With the midterm campaign season well under way, Obama and his Democratic allies are trying to portray themselves as heroes of the working class, working hard to help Americans in a sluggish economy.
The White House is hopeful that Democrats will be able to return to their districts in August touting success on these economic agenda items.
But Republicans and analysts say little will assuage the uncertainty gripping the American people as long as unemployment hovers near 10 percent nationally, and much higher in some states.
“They’re in a bind, considering the three planks in their platform: Stimulus, Health Care, Wall Street,” said one GOP Senate aide. “The first one is widely regarded as ineffectual or harmful (and a debt bomb); the second is hated by half the country while the rest are mainly lukewarm; the third people don’t understand and don’t think it will help (particularly the Democratic base).
“Meanwhile, the number one issue on the minds of voters is described by a 9.5 percent unemployment rate. Good luck with that.”