WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) says it’s time to stop blaming economically struggling Americans for their plight.

“Maybe the word welfare should be changed to something of a transitional living fund,” she said in a speech on the House floor. “For that is what it is, for people to be able to live.”

Lee noted that 50 years since the start of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” there have been great strides towards raising the standard of living for all Americans.

She noted that infant mortality rates, child hunger and the number of Americans living in poverty have all declined.

Though those problems still exist, she said.

Speaking as Democrats work to push through legislation to help Americans who have been unemployed for over a year, the congresswoman said perhaps it was time to refer to those benefits as “a transitional outreach to individuals who are chronically unemployed.”

“Quite frankly, of all the wealthy nations, we have the lowest safety net and the highest poverty, because we’re not willing to accept the fact that sometimes an American needs help. Even a veteran, even a soldier,” she said.

Lee added that politicians who call programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare “handouts” are doing a disservice to the nation’s poor.

Many Americans, said the Texas Democrat, are “near the edge of poverty or living in poverty simply because they cannot find work.”

House Speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio, said in a statement that any extension of long-term unemployment benefits should be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.