Political Notebook

Obama exhorts GOP to back jobless benefits

Associated Press / July 20, 2010

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President Obama took aim at Republican lawmakers yesterday, accusing them of holding the public hostage to Washington politics by blocking extended unemployment benefits for millions of out of work Americans.

“It’s time to do what’s right, not for the next election, but for the middle class,’’ Obama said in the Rose Garden yesterday morning.

Lawmakers have battled for weeks over legislation extending unemployment benefits to workers who have been out of a job for long stretches of time. The last such extension expired at the end of May, leaving some 2.5 million people without benefits, with hundreds of thousands more losing benefits each week.

The Senate is set to take up the measure again today, immediately following the swearing in of a replacement for Senator Robert Byrd, who died June 28. Filling that seat will give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block a Republican filibuster.

The $34 billion needed to extend benefits would be borrowed, adding to the nation’s mounting debt. Republicans have tapped into the public’s anger and concern over the national debt, saying they would support extending jobless benefits only if the bill was funded.

“Everyone agrees on extending the additional unemployment insurance, but the Democrat way is to insist we add it to the national debt at the same time, while blocking Republican efforts to pass the same extension without the debt,’’ said Don Stewart, spokesman for the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Tea Party Express decries expulsion over Web post
A Tea Party Express coordinator said yesterday the group’s expulsion from a national coalition over a member’s blog posting about the NAACP was “arrogant and preposterous.’’

Tea Party Express was expelled from the National Tea Party Federation for refusing to publicly rebuke and oust a spokesman, Mark Williams. Williams had posted a blog that satirized the NAACP and referred to its president, Benjamin Jealous, as “Tom’s nephew and NAACP head colored person.’’

The NAACP approved a resolution last week that calls on activists and others to “repudiate the racist element and activities’’ within the Tea Party movement.

Tea Party Express coordinator Joe Wierzbicki said the federation had “enabled and empowered the NAACP’s racist attacks on the Tea Party movement, and they should be ashamed of themselves.’’

Kagan may recuse herself from some health law cases
Responding to a final GOP challenge, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan said yesterday that she would consider recusing herself from matters related to the new health care law on a case-by-case basis.

Kagan was responding to a list of questions from Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans about her involvement as solicitor general in defending the health law.

The committee is to vote on her nomination today, and in all likelihood approve it, after the GOP minority delayed the vote for a week to get her answers.

Kagan, who is President Obama’s second Supreme Court nominee, was solicitor general while the health law was being passed and as states sued the federal government in March to challenge its constitutionality.

She told Republicans in written responses to 13 questions that she had no involvement in developing the government’s response to the lawsuit and never offered her views.