THE PRESIDENT: Please, everybody, have a seat.(Applause.) Well, Happy New Year, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Happy New Year!

THE PRESIDENT: I hope you’re keeping warm. A few weeks ago, I said that 2014 could be a breakthrough year for America. Think about it: Five years ago this month oureconomy was shedding 800,000 jobs just in one month. But as Americans buckled down and worked hard and sacrificed, we began to come back.

And our businesses have createdmore than 8 million new jobs since we hit the bottom. Our auto industry has gone from bust toboom. Manufacturing is rebounding. The housing market is rebounding. Stock markets are restoring retirementaccounts. The promise of energyindependence is actually in sight. Health care costs eat up less of our economy; over the past four years,costs have grown at the slowest rate on record. And since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.

So America is getting strongerand we’ve made progress. And the economyis growing, and we’ve got to do more to make sure that all Americans share inthat growth. We’ve got to help ourbusinesses create more jobs. We’ve gotto make sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families rebuilda little security. In other words, we’vegot to make sure that this recovery leaves nobody behind. And we’ve got a lot of work to do on thatfront. The good news is I’m optimisticwe can do it if we do it together.

Now, before the holidays, bothparties compromised on a budget that lifts some of the drag that’s been on theeconomy from these indiscriminate cuts we call sequester. And as a consequence, this year we may seemore stability when it comes to economic growth. And I think I’m not alone in saying that weare all grateful in the New Year that we won’t have another partisan shutdown,hopefully, going forward. (Applause.)

So that was a good sign. And we should build on that progress withwhat I said should be the first order of business in 2014, and that isextending insurance for the unemployed. (Applause.) The good news is thismorning the Senate took a very important step in that direction.

For the Americans who have joinedme at the White House today and millions like them who were laid off in therecession through no fault of their own, unemployment insurance has been avital economic lifeline. For a lot ofpeople, it’s the only source of income they’ve got to support their familieswhile they look for a new job. Thesearen’t folks who are just sitting back waiting for things to happen. They’re out there actively looking forwork. They desperately want work.

But although the economy has beengrowing and we’ve been adding new jobs, the truth of the matter is, is that thefinancial crisis was so devastating that there’s still a lot of people who arestruggling. And, in fact, if we don’tprovide unemployment insurance it makes it harder for them to find a job.

You heard Katherine’s story. And she’s far more eloquent than I could everbe. She wrote me last month to say, “Pleaselet those who think I am sitting at home enjoying being unemployed know that Iwould much rather be working.” And I hada chance to talk to Katherine, and I think it’s pretty clear that that’s thecase. Katherine went on to say, “I haveapplied to everything for which I am possibly qualified to no avail. I have worked hard all my life, paid taxes,voted, engaged in political discussion, and made the ultimate sacrifice: My two sons serve in the U.S. military. Job loss is devastating, and if I could fixit myself, I would. I challenge anylawmaker to live without an income.” That’s what Katherine said. It’shard. (Applause.)

So when we’ve got the mom of twoof our troops, who is working hard out there, but is having to wear a coatinside the house, we’ve got a problem. And it’s one that can be fixed. And Katherine is not alone.

Devlin Smith, who’s watching todayfrom her home in California, wrote me about her hunt for a new job. Since she was laid off 13 months ago, she hassent out hundreds of résumés, she has volunteered, she has done seasonal work. She doesn’t want to just be sitting aroundthe house. She’s been taking onlinecourses to learn new skills. Withoutunemployment insurance, though, she won’t be able to pay for her car or hercellphone, which makes the job hunt that much harder. And Devlin wrote to me and said, “I’ve wantednothing more than to find a new full-time job and have dedicated every day tothat mission. I’m asking you to advocatefor me and the millions like me who need our extended unemployment benefits tomake ends meet.”

So I just want everybody tounderstand this is not an abstraction. These are not statistics. Theseare your neighbors, your friends, your family members. It could at some point be any of us. That’s why we set up a system of unemploymentinsurance. The notion was everybody ismaking a contribution because you don’t know when the business cycle or aneconomic crisis might make any of us vulnerable.

And this insurance helps keepfood on the table while Dad is sending out résumés. It helps Mom pay the rent while she’slearning new skills to earn that new job. It provides that extra bit of security so that losing your job doesn’tmean that you have to lose your house, or everything you’ve worked so hard tobuild for years. We make this promise toour fellow Americans who are working hard to get back on their feet, becausewhen times get tough, we are not a people who say, you’re on your own. We’re a people who believe that we’re all init together. And we know, “there but thegrace of God go I.” (Applause.)

So that’s the values case forthis. That’s the moral case forthis. But there’s an economic case forit, as well. Independent economists haveshown that extending emergency unemployment insurance actually helps theeconomy, actually creates new jobs. Whenfolks like Katherine have a little more to spend to turn up the heat in herhouse or buy a few extra groceries, that means more spending with businesses inher local community, which in turn may inspire that business to hire one moreperson — maybe Kathy.

That’s why, in the past, bothparties have repeatedly put partisanship and ideology aside to offer somesecurity for job-seekers with no strings attached. It’s been done regardless of whetherDemocrats or Republicans were in the White House. It’s been done regardless of whetherDemocrats or Republicans controlled Congress. And, by the way, it’s been done multiple times when the unemploymentrate was significantly lower than it is today.

And what’s important to keep inmind also is that the recovery in a big country like the United States is goingto be somewhat uneven. So there are somestates that have a 2.5 unemployment rate, and then there are some places thatmay still have a 7, 8, 9 percent unemployment rate. The people living in those respective statesmay be working equally hard to find a job, but it’s going to be harder in someplaces than others.

Now, two weeks ago, Congress wenthome for the holidays and let this lifeline expire for 1.3 millionAmericans. If this doesn’t get fixed, itwill hurt about 14 million Americans over the course of this year: 5 million workers along with 9 million oftheir family members — their spouses, their kids.

Now, I’ve heard the argument thatsays extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed becauseit zaps their motivation to get a new job. I really want to go at this for a second. (Laughter and applause.) That really sells the American people short. I meet a lot of people as President of theUnited States, and as a candidate for President of the United States, and as aU.S. senator, and as a state senator — I meet a lot of people. And I can’t name a time where I met anAmerican who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having ajob. (Applause.)

The long-term unemployed are notlazy. They’re not lacking inmotivation. They’re coping with theaftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations. In some cases, they may have a skillsmismatch. They may have been doing acertain job for 20 years; suddenly they lose that job. They may be an older worker, may have to getretrained. It’s hard — sometimesemployers will discriminate if you’ve been out of work for a while; theydecide, well, we’re not sure we want to hire you, we’d rather hire somebody who’sstill working right now.

So it’s hard out there. There are a lot of our friends, a lot of ourneighbors who have lost their jobs and they’re working their tails off everysingle day trying to find a new job. Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of thesefolks will find work. But, in themeantime, the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff. It makes sure they can pay their car note togo to that interview. It makes sure theycan pay their cell phone bills so that if somebody calls back for an interview,they can answer it. (Laughter.)

And Katherine explainedthis. Katherine, in the letter that shewrote to me, said, do folks really think that “cutting this benefit will makesomeone hire me?” I mean, that’s not howemployers are thinking.

So letting unemployment insuranceexpire for millions of Americans is wrong. Congress should make things right. I am very appreciative that they’re on their way to doing just thatthanks to the bipartisan work of two senators. You had a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, and you had aconservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller. And despite their political differences, theyworked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance at least for threemonths temporarily while we figure out a longer-term solution. And this morning, a bipartisan majority ofsenators agreed to allow this common-sense provision to at least move forwardin the process.

The Senate is a complicatedplace. (Laughter.) So just because they agreed on this vote, allthey’ve agreed to so far is that we’re actually going to be able to have a voteon it. They haven’t actually passedit. So we’ve got to get this across thefinish line without obstruction or delay, and we need the House ofRepresentatives to be able to vote for it as well. (Applause.) That’s the bottom line.

Voting for unemployment insurancehelps people and creates jobs, and voting against it does not. Congress should pass this bipartisan planright away, and I will sign it right away. And more than 1 million Americans across the country will feel a littlehope right away. And hope iscontagious. (Applause.)

When Katherine has a little bitmore confidence about her situation, when she finds a job, she is going to beable to help somebody down the line maybe who is also down on their luck. When Congress passes a bipartisan effortstarting here right at the beginning of the New Year, who knows — we mightactually get some things done this year. (Laughter.) So after all the hardwork and sacrifice of the past five years to recover and rebuild from thecrisis, what I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is justa little bit of stability. Let’s just dothe common-sense thing. Let’s do what’sright.

We’re going to have to seeaction, though, on the part of Congress. And I’ll be willing to work with them every step of the way — action tohelp our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle classrequires; action to restore economic mobility and reduce inequality; action toopen more doors of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work hard andwalk through those doors.

When I was listening toKatherine, I was just so struck by her strength and dignity. And I think people when they bump into sometough times, like Katherine, they’re not looking for pity. They just want a shot. (Applause.) And they just want to feel as if — as a part of this country, as a partof their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all the things that they’vedone in the past, all the hard work they’ve done raising children and payingtaxes and working hard, that that counts for something, and that folks aren’tsuddenly just going to dismiss their concerns, but we’re going to rally behindthem. That’s not too much to ask. That’s who we are as Americans. That’s what built this country. That’s what I want to promote. (Applause.)

So thank you very much,everybody. Let’s get to work. Let’s get this done. (Applause.)








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