Labor chief blasts GOP on unemployment benefits |

Labor chief blasts GOP on unemployment benefits

DENVER (AP) – Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Friday that Senate Republicans could be prolonging the recession by opposing a spending bill that would have extended unemployment benefits.

Solis, talking to a group of Latino government officials in Denver, said Republicans were wrong to oppose to a broader jobs bill that would have extended jobless benefits for about 200,000 people a week. She warned of dire consequences if benefits are shut off.

“This will be devastating and could take us back to a deeper recession,” Solis said.

The labor chief was talking about a jobs bill that sputtered in the Senate this week. Ruling Democrats tried and failed to cut enough spending from the measure to win enough GOP support to avoid a filibuster. The effort failed, and President Barack Obama signed into law Friday a much smaller proposal that doesn’t include unemployment benefits.

The bill’s failure means unemployment benefits will begin phasing out for many still out of work. The bill also would have given states billions of dollars to avoid layoffs.

Solis said in her remarks that it’s too soon to pull back on unemployment benefits as the nation’s jobless rate hovers near double digits.

“I think that we still have to add a little bit more medicine before the patient is totally up and walking,” Solis said.

Bill Riggs, a spokesman with the Republican National Committee, said it was Democrats’ fault the bill didn’t pass and that they rejected “fiscally responsible alternatives” from the GOP to extend unemployment benefits.

“These are the same failed Democrat policies that led to nearly 10 percent national unemployment and will be another reason why Americans will elect Republicans in November,” Riggs said.

Solis also promoted $75 million in federal stimulus money for job training in 41 states. The money, also going to three American Indian tribes, will finance so-called “earn and learn” training where people work while learning new skills. California will get the most money, just less than $10 million.

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