WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama pledged to House Democrats on Friday that he would keep pushing for the reinstitution of long-term unemployment benefits, despite little evidence that a breakthrough is forthcoming.
Speaking before lawmakers at a retreat in Cambridge, Md., the president acknowledged that his ability to move legislation forward was limited, according to an attendee at the event. He doesn't have administrative recourse over the issue, he said, and either the Republicans would support a bill because they believed there was a political price to pay or they wouldn't.
"We are just going to have to keep on trying," the president said, according to the attendee.
Senate Democrats have attempted to reauthorize federal unemployment insurance several times since it expired in late December. But they have yet to find the right combination of offsets or reforms to convince the five Republicans needed to break a filibuster, and more than 1.7 million Americans have been left without benefits in the meantime.
Senate leadership aides said they will try once more before the end of the month. But those same aides were bearish about the bill's prospects, noting that Republican members hadn't told them what type of amendments they would like votes on in exchange for their support.
"We are going to keep bringing it up," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And I think it still has a chance, although it is not that large a chance."
Obama, for his part, told lawmakers that it would ultimately take an outside-game strategy to get something passed. Lawmakers would have to hear from their constituents in order to move a bill forward, and legislative trade-offs wouldn't do the trick. According to the attendee, he pledged to continue to put a spotlight on the issue during public appearances.