By Pete Kasperowicz
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday morning that Congress in the next few weeks needs to focus on extending unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the year.
"The most pressing is the expiration of unemployment benefits at the end of December," he said on the House floor. "Should Congress fail to act, millions of Americans who rely on emergency unemployment compensation will begin to see their payments disappear starting in January."
Hoyer said that without an extension of benefits, 2.1 million people will lose unemployment payments by mid-February, and more than 6 million people will be affected by the end of 2012.
"With so many Americans still out of work, now is certainly not the time to let them come to an end," he said. "Congress has never allowed emergency unemployment benefits to lapse with our jobless rate anywhere close to where it is today."
The current unemployment rate is 9 percent, and policymakers and Wall Street will be watching for the Labor Department's updated report on unemployment to see whether the situation improved or got worse in November.