On the heels of a bipartisan budget deal passed by Congress in December, Sen. Chris Coons said Friday he is optimistic Congress will be able to help some 1.3 million Americans who have lost their unemployment benefits.
"I am optimistic that, when we look in the faces of Americans who are job seekers and whose families depend on this, that we can do right by them, and we can find a responsible path forward," the Delaware Democrat said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"We ended last year with a bipartisan budget deal that actually gave those of us who are interested in the Congress working some real hope," he added.
Part of the disagreement over extending benefits, Coons indicated, was whether they should continue only for three more months or a year. How to pay for them was also an issue, but he said that could be resolved by extending the sequester cuts already in place or through other short-term spending reductions.
Coons described unemployment benefits as a "critical part of our social safety net," noting that for many hit hard by the struggling economy it keeps a "roof over your head" and "food on the table."
The Democrat said lawmakers need to get past "short-term politics" and place a "renewed focus on a pro-growth economy," investing in infrastructure, skills and manufacturing to help pave the way to better-paying jobs.
"If we simply try and fight over the minimum wage, fight over unemployment insurance, we are fighting over the basics. But, we need an expanded ambition for our country," he said.
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