by Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com
President Barack Obama came out swinging Monday.
In remarks made at the White House, Obama blasted Republicans for not supporting unemployment insurance extensions for millions of Americans who are out of work and called on Congress to rally around people in need and vote Tuesday to offer additional financial assistance.
“The same people who didn’t have any problems spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans … are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans … who really need help,” Obama said, criticizing the GOP.
“Republican leaders in the Senate are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job,” Obama said. “Well, I think that reflects a lack of faith in the American people. It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right – not for the next election, but for the middle class.”
Obama said that in three previous efforts, Senate Republicans blocked the extension of emergency relief for the unemployed. Across the country, this “stonewalling” has already blocked assistance to 2.5 million Americans and hundreds of thousands more are impacted by each additional week of delay.
Democrats accuse Republicans of being heartless at a time when many Americans need help from government just to make ends meet and provide for their families.
And what’s really appalling is this: Republicans are actually comparing the proposed unemployment insurance extension to welfare, claiming that offering jobless Americans extended financial help is tantamount to paying people who don’t want to work.
It’s nonsense – and it’s a smokescreen. The GOP wants to reject much of Obama’s legislative agenda, and it’s mindboggling that Republicans are willing to sacrifice the well-being of so many Americans just to stick it to the president at every opportunity.
In a crucial election year, Obama sought to shame Republicans, saying the GOP should put aside partisan politics and throw a much-needed lifeline to Americans in crisis. On Tuesday, we’ll see if Republicans have any sense of compassion.
“Even as we work to jumpstart job-growth in the private sector, get businesses hiring, and dig ourselves out of this economic hole, we also have another responsibility – to offer emergency relief to Americans who’ve been laid off in this recession; to help them make ends meet – and support their families – while they’re looking for another job,” Obama said. “That’s why it’s so essential to pass the unemployment insurance extension that comes up for a vote tomorrow.”
Standing behind Obama in the Rose Garden Monday were three unemployed Americans, including Denise Gibson, who is black.
“We need to pass it for Americans like Denise Gibson, who was laid off from a real estate agency earlier this year,” Obama said. “Denise has been interviewing for jobs – but so far, nothing. Meanwhile, she’s fallen further and further behind on her rent. And with her unemployment benefits set to expire, she’s worried about what the future holds.”
In a recent column for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Ron Walters, a political analyst and professor emeritus of government and politics at the University of Maryland, said unemployment benefits are drying up all across the country.
“A look at a few states where funds will run out soon turns up a frightening picture: 87,000 people in Michigan, which has the second largest unemployment rate; 67,000 in Colorado face the same fate; 57,000 people in Georgia; 184,000 in Florida,” Walters wrote.
Meanwhile, Obama said Tuesday’s vote in Congress is critical.
“We need to pass it for all the Americans who haven’t been able to find work in an economy where there are five applicants for every opening; who need emergency relief to help them pay the rent, cover their utilities, and put food on the table while they look for another job,” Obama said.
Let’s hope that stubborn Republican holdouts listen to Obama, and do the right thing.