Obama takes another shot at GOP over blocking unemployment benefits

By Karen Tumulty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 19, 2010; 11:47 AM

With the Senate poised to finally pass an extension of unemployment benefits, President Obama went to the Rose Garden to take another shot at the Republicans who have repeatedly blocked the measure, causing a lapse in payments for 2.5 million of the nation's jobless.

Obama was flanked by three of those who are long-term unemployed, whom he described as "honest, decent, hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own."

Passage is an all-but-foregone conclusion with the swearing-in Tuesday of West Virginia's new senator, Carte Goodwin, who replaces the late Robert C. Byrd and who will give the Democrats the 60th vote they need to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Only two Republicans, Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, support the bill; Nebraska's Ben Nelson is the lone Democrat to oppose it. The House passed legislation in May to provide the additional unemployment aid.

Polls indicate that the extension of jobless benefits up to 99 weeks has solid support among voters. Obama said the Republicans who have blocked the bill are "the same people who didn't have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for wealthy Americans."

Republicans argue that the real issue is not the extension itself -- an idea they say they support -- but the fact that the government would borrow $34 billion to pay for it

"Everyone agrees on extending the additional unemployment insurance, but the Democrat way is to insist we add it to the national debt at the same time -- while blocking Republican efforts to pass the same extension without the debt," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "Remember, this is the same crowd that said if we just borrowed a trillion dollars for the stimulus bill, the unemployment rate would be down to 7.5 percent by now."

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