War on Poverty: Deep Divide in Congress on How to Help

Democrats and Republicans say income inequality is a problem, but disagree over a solution. 

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Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson and wife of former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.), is joined by Democratic members of the House of Representatives during an event marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the war on poverty at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Jan. 8, 2014, in Washington, D.C. 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bipartisan differences over dealing with issues of poverty were readily apparent on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's declaration of a "war on poverty," NPR reports.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) called Johnson’s effort a success.

"The national poverty rate has gone down from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012," she said, NPR reports. "Without safety net programs, the poverty rate would've climbed to 29 percent."

But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) commemorated the anniversary with a speech in Johnson's old Senate office, pointing out the continued problems of poverty.

"They will not be solved by continuing with the same stale Washington ideas," he said. "Five decades and trillions of dollars after President Johnson first announced the war on poverty, the results of the big government approach are in."

The statements came the same week that a study showed that more than half the members of Congress are millionaires, the report says.

At the same time, the Senate is locked in a debate about whether Congress should restore jobless benefits to more than 1 million long-term unemployed people who lost the benefits nearly two weeks ago.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted to block the aid. But Democrats say extending unemployment benefits could actually stimulate the economy.

"The issue of which party can address the needs of the middle class and the decline in income and the need for better-paying jobs is going to win the election, plain and simple," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, NPR reports. "Not the party that, you know, figures out the best solution on Obamacare, and not the party that figures out the best solution on the deficit. This is the issue. The world is changing."

Read more at NPR.

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