Harry Reid: 'No Greater Challenge...Than Income Inequality'

By Susan Jones | December 20, 2013 | 6:02am EST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "Even as the economy creates jobs, too many Americans find themselves on the sidelines watching as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class are getting squeezed and squeezed," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Thursday.

"There is no greater challenge this country has than income inequality. And we must do something about it," he told a news conference on Capitol Hill.

His solution is to keep giving taxpayer money to people who are out of work:

"There are lots of things that should be done, but the first thing is to make sure that those people who are waiting and waiting to find a job still get the important check that they deserve. Unemployment compensation is something that is good for the economy."

Reid said he is "very, very pleased, happy and proud" that Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) have introduced a bill that would extend unemployment insurance for three months.

"That's the way we used to do things around here," Reid said.

Reid and other Democrats said they hope to bring the bill to a vote "in a very timely fashion," if Republicans will "work with us to schedule a vote." So far, Reid said, Republicans have blocked a vote, but he promised to "file cloture on our way out of here," meaning the bill could be the first one voted on when Congress returns from it's long winter nap.

Around 1.3 million workers will lose their extended jobless benefits on Dec. 28. Further extending those benefits will cost an estimated $26 million, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated.

Reid also said Congress needs to raise the minimum wage.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), appearing with Reid, quoted the Pope's recent message on income inequality, saying "those of us in America should pay heed."

The Pope's message "challenges all of us, and it particularly challenges those of us who have been blessed with an opportunity to serve in public life and in the United States Senate, it challenges us to acknowledge the obvious," Durbin said.

"There are people who got up and went to work today and will go to work tomorrow and work every single day, very hard. And despite their best efforts, they're not making enough money to live to the next paycheck. They're below the level of poverty in America. That is unacceptable."

Durbin's prescription is to raise the minimum wage.

"And that means, when we come back here, to make raising the minimum wage in America a high priority in the United States Senate, and I hope in the House of Representatives as well."

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