President Obama took another step in his vision to make income inequality the focus of 2014 by using his first remarks of the new year to push for a temporary, three-week extension to unemployment insurance. After the Senate voted to begin debate on the issue, he urged Republicans in both chambers to “get this across the finish line” soon.
Looking to claim the issue of addressing income inequality for Democrats, the president took on Republican opposition to extending the program, rejecting the idea that the benefits create a dependency that deters recipients from looking for jobs.
“I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job,” he said as he was joined on stage by people who lost the benefits after they expired last month. Recounting a letter he received from one of the attendees, President Obama he said he would “challenge any lawmaker to live without an income.”
On Tuesday, six Republican senators joined Democrats to vote for opening debate on extending the benefits, but the votes may not be there to end debate or pass the measure. Over in the House, Speaker John Boehner has already stated that he would not take up the bill unless the spending is offset.