Obama: Renewing Benefits for Long-Term Unemployed Is Priority

The president urged lawmakers to make it their "first order of business"

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Jonathan J. Cooper / ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this hursday Dec. 26, 2013 file photo, Richard Mattos, 59, looks for jobs at a state-run employment center in Salem, Ore.

President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to extend an emergency unemployment program during his weekly address Saturday.

Obama, on the heels of his two-week vacation in Hawaii, insisted both parties should focus on passing a three-month extension to providing benefits to the 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans. The program expired when Congress failed to include an extension in a two-year budget deal passed before the holiday break.

“We’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough; we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.”

GOP members, including Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, have said they’re open to extending the benefits as long as costs are balanced.

[The New York Times]