U.S. President Barack Obama addresses Republican lawmakers, calling on them to support a bill that will extend emergency unemployment benefits to millions of Americans. (CBC)

Barack Obama urged Republican lawmakers to support a bill that would extend emergency benefits to millions of unemployed Americans on Monday. In a press conference at the White House Rose Garden he blasted Republican critics for their "lack of faith in the American people."

"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.

The unemployment benefits bill is scheduled for another vote tomorrow in the Senate.