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Bush, Democrats Pledge to Extend Benefits for Unemployed Americans - 2002-12-28

President Bush says he will work with Congress to extend unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousand of Americans who lose that coverage Saturday.

Congress failed to agree on continuing unemployment benefits before it adjourned in November. So President Bush says one of his first priorities in the new year is to extend payments to more than 750,000 Americans who are out of work.

He said it is part of a plan to turn economic recovery into sustained growth. "This economy is strong and it can be stronger," said the president. "I will work with Congress on a jobs and growth package to add momentum to the recovery and to put people back to work."

The president says he will work with the new Republican majorities in both houses of Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to high quality, affordable health care. He will also continue his push for a prescription drug plan for older Americans who are hurt by rising drug prices.

In the Democratic response to the president's radio address, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed that Congress should start the new year off right by extending federal unemployment benefits. "We owe hard-working Americans, and our own economy, nothing less in the new year," she said. "It will come too late for this holiday season. But it's never too late to do the right thing."

Senator Clinton says another 13-week extension of federal unemployment benefits is smart economic policy, quoting a Labor Department study that says each dollar spent generates two dollars and 15 cents in the economy.