WASHINGTON -- House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Tuesday that it would be "immoral" to extend benefits to the longterm unemployed.
Sessions, speaking on the House floor, was responding to complaints from Democrats that his committee declined to let them have votes on amendments that would have renewed emergency unemployment insurance, which expired on Dec. 28. At the time, about 1.3 million people who have been unable to find work lost their federal benefits, which kick in once they run out of state benefits. That number grows by more than 70,000 people each week, and it is around 1.6 million now.
But Sessions said he told Democrats that the answer was not extending benefits, but working with Republicans to create jobs.
"I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployments [benefits] to people rather than us working on creation of jobs," Sessions said. "A job is the most important attribute, I believe, in a free enterprise system."
He added that Congress spends too much time arguing about people such as the long-term unemployed, who are defined as workers who lost jobs through no fault of their own, and have been unable to find new work in the still-struggling economy for more than six months.
"Too much time we have been hung up on, instead of the creation of jobs, we talk about the symptoms that are related to unemployment, and long-term unemployment," Sessions said. "In this case, the president of the United States thoughtfully articulates the need for us to make sure we help people, but I believe he errs on the side of not pushing jobs bills."
Sessions' office did not immediately respond to a request seeking elaboration on why it was immoral to help Americans who have been seeking new jobs for more than half a year, or why it would hurt the jobless to continue giving them aid.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.