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Unemployment benefits: Labor Sec. says GOP could keep recession going

Unemployment benefits were not extended for Americans in a jobs bill that not enough Senate Republicans would support.

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Unemployment benefits have not been extended for those Americans out of work when a jobs bill was signed into law Friday by President Obama. US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, right, blames Republicans for not supporting a part of the measure that would have extended benefits for the unemployed.

AP Photo/Bay Area News Group - The Contra Costa Times, Aric Crabb

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Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Friday that Senate Republicans could be extending 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.

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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