POLITICS

President Barack Obama challenges Republicans to pass jobs bill

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The president's strident tone underscored a difficult political predicament as he seeks re-election with the economy slowing and unemployment stuck above 9 percent. "Our economy really needs a jolt right now," he said.

(Photo: Associated Press)

The president said that without his nearly $450 billion package of tax cuts and public works spending there will be fewer jobs and weaker growth. He said the bill could guard against another economic downturn if the situation in debt-laden Europe worsens.

With the plan expected to come up for debate in the Senate next week, he urged every senator to think "long and hard about what's at stake."

"If it turns out that Republicans are opposed to the bill, they need to explain to me, and mostly importantly their constituents, what they would do," Obama said.

"What I've done over the last several weeks is take the case to the American people so they know what is going on."

Obama said the economy is weaker now than at the beginning of the year. Citing economists' estimates, he said his $447 billion jobs bill would help the economy grow by 2 percent and create 1.9 million jobs.

"At a time when people are having such a hard time, we need to have an approach that is big enough to meet the moment," he said.

Obama addressed the disaffection with politics pervasive among the public that's driven down his approval ratings — and even more so, Congress' — as he seeks a second term.

Appearing fed up, Obama blamed it on Republicans who he said refuse to cooperate with him even on issues where he said they once agreed with him. He talked about the ugly debate over raising the government's borrowing limit that consumed Capitol Hill and the White House over the summer, until Obama gave in to Republican demands for deep spending cuts without new taxes.

"They don't get a sense that folks in this town are looking for their best interests," Obama said of Americans in general. "So if they see that over and over again, that cynicism is not going to be proven wrong unless Congress does something different."

"What the American people saw is that Congress just didn't care."

Obama also said the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators protesting against Wall Street and economic inequality are expressing the frustrations of the American public.

He said he understands the public's concerns about how the nation's financial system works. And he said Americans see Wall Street as an example of the financial industry not always following the rules.

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