WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Congress to make 2014 a "year of action" for the economy, making the federal unemployment benefits extension the first item on the agenda.
"This will be a year of action," Obama said in his weekly address. "I will keep doing everything I can to create new jobs and new opportunities for American families -- with Congress, on my own, and with everyone willing to play their part. And that action should begin by extending unemployment insurance for Americans who were laid off in the recession through no fault of their own."
"This vital economic lifeline helps people support their families while they look for a new job. And it demands responsibility in return by requiring that they prove they're actively looking for work," Obama said.
In a 60-37 vote, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted Tuesday to advance the unemployment benefits extension bill, clearing initial procedural hurdle for the legislation. An estimated 1.3 million unemployed Americans saw their benefits lapse when the program expired on Dec. 28.
The bill now needs a simple majority in the 100-member Senate to pass it in the coming days. The measure, however, would then have to clear the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans who remain unenthusiastic about supporting the legislation without changes.
The benefits came from the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, enacted under the Bush administration in 2008 to provide supplementary relief for the long-term unemployed who have exhausted standard state benefits. The program has been repeatedly extended in past years, but some Republicans opposed renewing the temporary program, calling it a disincentive for job hunting.
Obama also said in his State of the Union address at the end of this month, he will mobilize the country around the national mission of making sure the U.S. economy offers everyone who works hard a fair shot at opportunity and success.