Sen. Tom Coburn said Tuesday the debate about unemployment should be about creating jobs and not extending benefits.
"This is the sixth year of this, of extending unemployment benefits. The question people ought to be asking is, 'What are we doing to create jobs, rather than to pay people who don't have a job who are looking for a job?'" the Oklahoma Republican said on "Fox & Friends" shortly before voting against a Senate bill to extend benefits for three more months.
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The measure, cosponsored by Republican Dean Heller of Nebraska, passed by a margin of 60 to 37, with five other Republicans joining Heller to support the effort aimed at continuing federal unemployment payments that expired on Dec. 28 for more than 1.3 million Americans.
Coburn expressed frustration on the Fox program that the whole debate over unemployment benefits was "always based on spin and not on facts." He said it was unfair for Democrats to claim that opponents of extending unemployment benefits don't care about people.
"If, in fact, you don't agree with [President Barack Obama] that this is the best way to help these people, then you don't care about people. In other words, there is something wrong with you," he said.
Coburn argued that states that have actually cut back on unemployment benefits have seen a drop in their unemployment rate and an increase in job formation, and he questioned the goals behind extending long-term unemployment benefits.
"There is a debate economically about whether this is an incentive that is a disincentive to work versus an incentive to help people," he said. "I want to help everybody out there who needs help. But, I also want to incentivize them to help themselves. We're not doing that with this program."
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