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Pelosi: ‘Cruel’ to Oppose Jobless Benefits

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday lit into Republicans for blocking an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, calling their opposition “cruel” and an “insult” to working people.

She predicted that the unemployment bill would eventually become law.

“It’s just cruel and it cannot stand,” she said of the Republican-led filibuster of the jobless benefits measure in the Senate.

“To those who say we shouldn’t extend unemployment benefits because it’s a disincentive to work, I say that’s an insult to the working people of our country,” she said.

Without naming him, Pelosi took aim at House Minority Leader John Boehner’s comment that the Wall Street reform package that the House passed Wednesday was “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.”

“It is a situation that some have called an ant,” she said. “An ant. A-N-T. Ant. Would you call an ant the loss of eight and a half million jobs, the loss of $17 trillion in household wealth for the American people and a very major recession for our economy?”

Pelosi also attacked the Ohio Republican’s suggestion that the Social Security retirement age be raised to 70.

“Seventy is a relative age,” she said. “Around here there is not a lot of outdoor work or heavy lifting, but for some people it is and 70 means something different to them.”

She said that a better way to pay for wars would be to cancel the George W. Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. She said a bill extending tax cuts for the middle class but not the wealthy would come to the floor “soon.”

But Social Security isn’t the place to start looking for savings, she said.

“Let’s talk about growth, let’s talk about how we can reduce spending … looking at the entitlements, but let’s not start on the backs of our seniors,” she said.

Pelosi’s remarks appear at odds with those of several other leading Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), who said a higher retirement age should be under consideration, and House Budget Chairman John Spratt (S.C.), who has said the president’s fiscal commission should focus on reforming Social Security first because it is easier to deal with than Medicare and Medicaid. Spratt sits on the commission.

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