Obama: “Send a message to folks in Washington”
President Obama continued to portray Republicans as blocking efforts to improve the U.S. economy as he wrapped up a three-day tour of the rural Midwest.
Seeking to cast himself as the rational figure in a contentious debt ceiling drama that ended earlier this month with the U.S. narrowly averted a historic default, Obama argued that politics was at least partly to blame for the sputtering U.S. economy. He pointed out that Standard & Poor’s, in explaining its downgrade of the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+, was not worried that the country could not pay its bills, but instead expressed concern over whether the country’s lawmakers could agree on a plan to address the nation’s long-term debt problems in the current U.S. political climate.
And Obama said that he had pushed for a 10-year deficit reduction deal of about $4 trillion, built on cuts in spending and a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans, but it was blocked by Republicans.
“I need you to send a message to folks in Washington,” Obama told voters on Wednesday at a town-hall style meeting in a seed production facility in Atkinson, Ill. “Stop drawing lines in the sand, stop engaging in rhetoric instead of getting things done. It’s time to put country ahead of party.”
Obama kicked off his “economic bus tour” on Monday as his approval rating had dropped to an all-time low. He pledged to deliver a major jobs plan to Congress next month, but has yet to provide specific details beyond proposals he has mentioned previously, such as an extension of a payroll tax cut, money to repair roads and bridges and pending trade agreements.
There is little chance that the perpetually gridlocked Congress will reach a bipartisan agreement on a major jobs bill, but Obama has made it clear this week that Congress should take action to boost the economy and job growth or he will run against them in his reelection campaign next year.
“There are some things that we could be doing right now to put our neighbors, our friends, our family members back to work,” Obama said, citing a proposal to extend a payroll tax cut worth about $1,000 to American households.
“We could renew it right now to give businesses certainty that they’re going to have customers,” Obama said. “The only thing holding us back is our politics….It’s traditionally a bipartisan idea. There’s no reason we shouldn’t pass it.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that Obama “promised, like he always likes to do through speeches, to put together a jobs plan. But yet again we have no plan from the president.”
As Obama has done throughout the three-day tour, he continued to remind voters that the U.S. economic crisis started under President Bush, citing 8 million lost jobs – “4 million before I took office and then another 4 million in the first few months of 2009.”
Republicans brushed aside Obama’s talk of a coming jobs proposal, preferring to hammer the president for his use of a new $1.1 million bus to visit voters on a trip that had all the trappings of a campaign tour.
“This is an outrage that the taxpayers of this country would have to foot the bill so that the campaigner-in-chief can run around in his Canadian bus and act as if he is interested in creating jobs in our country,” Priebus said. (The New York Post reports the bus was made in Canada.)
The Secret Service bought two such buses – one for Obama and one that will eventually be used by the Republican presidential nominee.
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