In the strongest language I have heard from President Obama in recent months, he went after Senate Republicans in his Saturday address to the Nation stating that the Republicans in the Senate are trying to “filibuster recovery and obstruct our progress.” The strength of his message, to this person who has been critical of his silence in recent weeks, was a breath of fresh air. While showing a large degree of compassion for the unemployed who are suffering greatly due to the loss of unemployment benefits starting as early as June 2’ND, he stated in his press release that “Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family.”
Having written numerous articles on the misuse of filibustering and the misuse of the cloture vote in the Senate, it was good to see this subject brought to the level of debate that it deserves. Obama hammered the Republican leadership by stating “But again and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said “no,” and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote. Think about what these stalling tactics mean for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the recession began. Over the past several weeks, more than two million of them have seen their unemployment insurance expire. For many, it was the only way to make ends meet while searching for work – the only way to cover rent, utilities, even food.”
By appealing to the Senate to stop the filibustering, allow straight up or down voting, and to end the use of cloture to obstruct progress; he is taking the firmest stance that I have seen him take in months. Perhaps the passage of the Wall Street Reform bill earlier in the week has made him feel energized. Perhaps the passage of the bill has simply allowed him to re-focus on this critical issue. Either way, I feel better now that he seems to be picking up the mantle of leadership for the unemployed and again seems to be pressing economic recovery strategies that will impact Main Street instead of Wall Street. In saying “Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is – an emergency expenditure. That’s because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado.” He is displaying that he at least “gets it” now and appears focused on getting the unemployed some much needed relief.
The full audio of the address is HERE. The video can be viewed online at www.whitehouse.gov.