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Unemployed Push Congress for Benefits Extension

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is backed up by about 100 unemployed people Wednesday at the Capitol as she addresses a rally protesting against the expiration of unemployment benefits.

Congressional Democrats and the White House teamed up with the nation’s largest labor federation to unleash more than 200 unemployed workers from 20 states to lobby Wednesday on Capitol Hill for an extension of expiring unemployment benefits.

Before the afternoon AFL-CIO lobbying blitz began, Speaker Nancy Pelosi instructed the packed room of bricklayers and other unionized tradespeople to make Members “feel that red, hot iron of pain that America’s families are feeling across the country.”

The day before, federal payments expired for 800,000 idle workers, a figure that may exceed 2 million by New Year’s Day.

“We see you coming here as the cavalry to take the Hill,” the California Democrat said. “Make them do the right thing.” 

A continuation of unemployment benefits is one of a number of pressing legislative items Members are facing in the lame-duck session. Pelosi argued that the revenue issues related to the expiring unemployment benefits and another Congressional priority — the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts — are not isolated. She also accused Republicans of being hypocritical on deficit spending.

“We’re here at a time when a lot of issues are on the table, and they’re not unrelated,” she said. “You hear things about expanding tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America, and those tax cuts, we are told, should not be paid for. $700 billion in tax cuts for the top 2 percent in this country, and our Republican colleagues say we should do that and we should not pay for it?” 

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said at Wednesday’s rally that cutting off unProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age

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