Congress to begin 2014 with jobless benefits battle

U.S. President Obama announces his Chief of Staff Lew as his nominee for Treasury Secretary, in the East Room of the White House in WashingtonBy Thomas Ferraro WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress begins what promises to be another highly combative year on Monday with a showdown over a White House-backed bid to renew unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans. The battle will kick off a 2014 drive by President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats to stem a growing gap between rich and poor. The Democrat-led Senate plans to escalate the fight in coming weeks by bringing up for a vote a bill to increase the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 an hour since July 2009. Democrats want the minimum wage to rise over three years to $10.10 and then be indexed to inflation in the future.

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