President Obama said at a White House event Tuesday that the long-term unemployed "just want a shot" and that nobody would rather have unemployment benefits than a job.
"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," Obama said.
Obama's remarks came after the Senate cleared a key procedural hurdle Tuesday by getting 60 votes to move forward with a temporary extension of the benefits, which expired for 1.3 million Americans on Jan. 1.
Surrounded by unemployed Americans and those who have benefited from the aid, Obama emphasized that they weren't free-loaders but rather hard-working Americans who need some help after regular unemployment insurance runs out.
"They just want to feel as if, you know, as a part of this country, as a part of their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all the things that they've done in the past -- all the hard work they've done raising children and paying taxes and working hard -- you know, that that counts for something," Obama said, "and that folks aren't suddenly just going to dismiss their concerns, but are going to rally behind them."
Obama was introduced by Katherine Hackett of Moodus, Conn., who wrote to him last month about her plight as a unemployed person unable to find a new job. A single mother with two sons in the military, Hackett said she has cut back on home heating and food to help get by on her unemployment benefits.
“I challenge any lawmaker to live without an income; that’s what Katherine said,” Obama told the audience. “It’s hard.”
For the entire transcript, click here.
Updated at 1:23 p.m.