The White House on Wednesday marked the new year by urging Congress to make extending unemployment benefits its top priority when lawmakers return to Washington.

“This New Year’s Day, there is likely less joy and more fear and distress in the homes of 1.3 million Americans who this week have seen their unemployment insurance suddenly cut off — a vital lifeline that these Americans depend on as they fight to find a job,” said National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling in a statement.

“There would be no better New Year’s resolution for Congress to make today than to commit to making the first new legislation for the new year the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance for those who have this week just been cut off,” he added.

Jobless benefits for 1.3 million Americans expired on Saturday after lawmakers failed to extend the aid in a bipartisan budget deal passed in December.

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