UPDATED: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 1:43pm
(CNN) — Kentucky Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday extending unemployment benefits past what the U.S. federal government has already paid would be a "disservice" to workers.
"I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers," he said, appearing on "Fox News Sunday."
On December 28, unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million workers. In order for the jobless benefits to continue, lawmakers must extend the recession-era program by the end of the month. The Congressional Budget Office notes that if the benefits expire, the U.S. gross domestic product could fall 0.2 percentage points next year.
President Barack Obama and Democrats in recent weeks have ramped up efforts to pressure Congress to extend jobless benefits, and House Speaker John Boehner indicated that he's open to the legislation.
Paul, a tea party favorite who has long been opposed to unemployment benefits, pointed to a study that showed employers are less likely to hire the long-term unemployed.
"When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy. And it really - while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you're trying to help," Paul said.
But the White House and Democrats say evidence shows that jobless benefits don't stop people from trying to find work. In his weekly address, Obama cited estimates by the Department of Labor and the Council of Economic Advisers that say failing to extend benefits could cost businesses 240,000 jobs.
"If Congress refuses to act, it won't just hurt families already struggling - it will actually harm our economy. Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy," Obama said.
The monthly economic report released last week showed unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since November 2008, at 7%, and the economy added 203,000 jobs in November, showing steady but painfully slow economic progress. But 11 million Americans remain unemployed as the job market struggles to heal in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Extending jobless benefits for another year would cost about $26 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Last week, Paul visited Detroit to lay out a plan to rescue the city, the largest in history to enter bankruptcy and with an unemployment rate at or greater than 1.5% of the national rate.