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Klobuchar, Franken, Senate colleagues pushing extended jobless benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota Sens.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken joined a group of Democratic colleagues today to urge passage of a bill that would extend benefits to unemployed workers across the country.

The 11 Democratic senators held the press conference primarily to pressure Senate Republicans, who have proposed attaching amendments to the bill that Democrats have said are unrelated and will delay its passage.

“I think the understanding here is no matter where you live, if you don’t have a job, you’re in trouble,” said Klobuchar, who read several letters from Minnesotans asking for benefit extensions.

“We don’t need more foreclosures. We need to help folks,” said Franken, who added that it was “the right thing to do.”

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“And, now is the time to do it,” he said. “This is the time to do it.”

The Senate bill would extend benefits in states with unemployment levels lower than 8.5 percent for an additional 14 weeks. For states with higher levels of unemployment, it would extend benefits for 20 weeks.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said today that Republicans had proposed attaching amendments to the bill related to ACORN funding and extending the $8,000 real estate tax credit.
While Reed called the extension of the real estate tax credit a worthy goal, he said it did not belong on the bill.

“These amendments are designed more as messages to the Republican base than hope and opportunity for a struggling America,” said Reed.

The House recently passed a bill that would have extended benefits in states with unemployment levels of 8.5 percent and above.

But, that bill faced pressure in the Senate from such members as Klobuchar and Franken whose states fell below that threshold.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate stood at 7.3 percent for September.

“Minnesota may be under 8 percent, but I go home on weekends … and you can see the desperation,” Franken said.

Klobuchar called the Republican efforts on the measure “troubling.”

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“Simply put, this legislation provides relief in a fair way to all of those in need,” said Klobuchar. “It helps jobless workers … it does not add to the deficit. It is the right thing to do.”