(CNN) — President Barack Obama urged Congress on Monday to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, saying that Senate Republicans have allowed short-term political concerns to trump the needs of the jobless.
During an appearance in the Rose Garden, Obama argued that that the federal government has “a responsibility to offer emergency assistance to people who desperately need it” and an obligation to help families “make ends meet.”
Three times in recent weeks, a “partisan minority” has used “parliamentary maneuvers” to block a vote on extending unemployment benefits, Obama said. The Republicans are guided by a “misguided notion” that a new relief bill would discourage people from looking for work, he said.
“That attitude reflects a lack of faith in the American people,” Obama said. People “aren’t looking for a handout. They desperately want to work.”
The Republicans should stop holding people “hostage to Washington politics,” he declared. “There are times when you put elections aside. This is one of those times.”
Obama wants the Senate to pass a bill that would extend the deadline to file for unemployment benefits through the end of November. The bill would cost $33 billion in additional deficit spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a vote on the issue Tuesday.
On Saturday, during his weekly radio and internet address, Obama blasted Republicans for blocking efforts to extend the time unemployed Americans can receive government benefits.
“Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare,” he said. “They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family.”
Before last month, out-of-work Americans were eligible for extensions once they maxed out at 26 weeks of state benefits.
Depending on the state, people could qualify for up to 73 weeks of federal benefits — a total of 99 weeks. But, citing deficit concerns, Senate Republicans blocked the extension with a 57-14 vote before the July Fourth holiday.
Obama also criticized Republicans for what he says is obstruction of policies that would aide small businesses and boost the economy.
“Too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences,” Obama said Saturday.
“A lot of small businesses still have trouble getting the loans and capital they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers. So we proposed steps to get them that help: Eliminating capital gains taxes on investments. Establishing a fund for small lenders to help small businesses. Enhancing successful SBA programs that help them access the capital they need,” he said.