"These are honest, decent, hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own," Obama said. "The same people who didn't have any problems spending money on tax breaks for the richest Americans are saying we shouldn't offer benefits to middle-class Americans."
Unemployment in the United States is at 9.5 per cent, and benefits for millions of Americans have dried up in recent months. The issue of temporarily extending emergency unemployment benefits has come up three times in recent weeks, but Republican senators have blocked it each time.
Obama has described the bill as crucial to rebuilding the economy, but Republican critics say they won't support it unless it is paid for through the budget and not through deficit spending.
"It's time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics," Obama urged.