President Obama and Gene Sperling / Charles Dharapak, AP
With unemployment insurance set to expire on Saturday, the White House is seeking to pressure Congress into extending benefits when it returns next month.
While on vacation Friday in Hawaii, President Obama called two senators -- Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nevada -- who are sponsoring a bill to extend the jobless benefits.
The president promised to push Congress on what he called an "urgent economic priority," said the White House, reports the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Gene Sperling -- the director of Obama's National Economic Council -- issued a statement saying that "never before have we abruptly cut off emergency unemployment insurance when we faced this level of long-term unemployment and it would be a blow to these families and our economy."
Sperling's full statement:
"As the President has repeatedly made clear, it defies economic sense, precedent and our values to allow 1.3 million Americans fighting to find jobs to see their unemployment insurance abruptly cut off -- especially in the middle of the holiday season.
"These are our neighbors, our community members and often fellow parents who depend on this as a temporary lifeline while they are actively looking for new jobs to support their families and make ends meet. Never before have we abruptly cut off emergency unemployment insurance when we faced this level of long-term unemployment and it would be a blow to these families and our economy.
"While we remain disappointed that Congress did not heed the President's call to extend emergency unemployment benefits for next year before the holidays, the President as well as the Democratic Congressional leadership have made clear the importance of extending the benefits immediately upon Congress's return.
"Senator Jack Reed and Senator Heller have put forward bipartisan legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for three months which would prevent these 1.3 million workers and their families from losing benefits while giving more time for consideration of further extension through 2014, and Leader (Harry) Reid will bring it to a vote as soon as they return.
"The President strongly encourages both the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership and their members to support this bipartisan solution and to pass the Reed-Heller bill."
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