Dems Intro Unemployment Benefits Extension Package

House Democrats have introduced a measure to extend jobless insurance to help the more than 6.1 million unemployed Americans whose benefits will expire at the end of next year.

“The problem we have in America today of joblessness is not the lack of willingness or wanting to find work. It’s lack of work,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) told reporters. “Congress has never permitted extended unemployment benefits to expire when the unemployment rate was anywhere close to the current 9.1 percent.” 

The Democrats said that without their bill, as many as 2.1 million out-of-work Americans would lose their benefits by mid-February.

The bill will provide extended unemployment coverage in 2012 to those actively seeking work and would also provide assistance to states in order to maintain their own unemployment insurance programs. The item is part of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, and is valued at roughly $45 billion.

Hill Republicans have so far opposed efforts to pass the jobs package due to the way Democrats have proposed paying for it — through tax hikes on the wealthy.

“The Republicans thought the right thing for us to do to be responsible is to say ‘In God We Trust,’” said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). “Well, the people we are talking about can’t pay their bills with that. They trust God. The problem is they don’t trust us.”

When asked by TRNS how the committee plans to present the bill in an appealing way to House Republicans, they responded that they will be flexible in merging it with other legislation.

“We’re trying to have a narrow bill. We’re open to reforms and ideas,” Doggett said.

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News updates from on and around Capitol Hill.

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