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In campaign mode, Obama slams GOP as obstructionist

Moving into campaign mode, President Obama on Saturday cast the Republicans as an obstructionist force bent on impeding the nation’s economic recovery for political purposes.

Obama used his weekly radio address to deliver a message that Senate Republicans are also blocking an extension of jobless benefits to millions of unemployed Americans suffering in a tough economy.

The House has passed a $34-billion bill extending unemployment insurance, but Democrats lack the 60 votes in the Senate needed to break a Republican filibuster. A vote on the matter is set for Tuesday.

“Too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences,” Obama said.

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Obama’s aim was twofold: to boost his party’s chances in the midterm elections in November; and to mollify congressional Democrats who have complained the White House is cavalier about their bleak prospects.

House Democrats were infuriated by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ acknowledgment on “Meet the Press” last Sunday that Republicans could potentially win control of the House.

Polls confirm that Democrats are in jeopardy. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 45% said they wanted to see Republicans back in charge of Congress after the November elections, and 43% hoped to see the Democrats keep control.

In a reprieve from politics, Obama is vacationing in Maine this weekend with his family. On Saturday morning the first family visited the Bar Harbor Club, where they “played some tennis and hung out at the pool,” according to White House spokesman Bill Burton. The family later had lunch at the Claremont Hotel, a waterfront spot, and visited a lighthouse at the southern end of Mt. Desert Island.

Some Republicans have criticized Obama for taking a vacation at a crucial stage in the effort to stop the BP oil leak. Though Obama has urged tourists to visit the struggling Gulf Coast, he chose Maine for his vacation. Next month he is scheduled to spend nearly two weeks on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

As the election approaches, each party is battling to depict the other as more heartless. In his radio address, Obama said, “Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family.”

In the Republican weekly address, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) drew attention to Obama’s recess appointment of Donald Berwick, the new head of the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid. By making it a recess appointment, Obama avoided what was sure to be a contentious Senate hearing. Republicans have raised questions about Berwick’s statements praising the British national healthcare system.

“Without a public confirmation hearing on Dr. Berwick’s nomination, the Senate and the American people do not have the opportunity to learn about the man who will control one-third of all healthcare spending in America,” Roberts said.

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He added that “Dr. Berwick has spoken very favorably about the British National Health Service, calling it ‘not just a national treasure, [but] a global treasure’ as well. Unfortunately, the British system rations care to contain costs.”

Gibbs was questioned about the Berwick appointment during recent media briefings. He described the Senate confirmation process as “clearly broken,” adding that Obama could not afford to wait for the Senate to act.

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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Nicholas reported from Washington and Memoli from Bar Harbor.


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