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Before G-20 Summit, Obama Touts Action

President Wants Nations to Take the Steps Congress Won’t to Spur the Global Economy

Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images
This week’s G-20 meetings in France are already attracting protesters. The policy suggestions that President Barack Obama is expected to make in Cannes have already met protests at home from Congress.

President Barack Obama will be jetting to Cannes, France, this week for the G-20 summit, trying to convince leading rich and developing nations to do what he can't get Congress to do take decisive action to spur the global economy now while embracing long-term fiscal reforms.

With the president's jobs and deficit proposals stalled in Congress, the administration is pushing Europe to act aggressively to stabilize the debt crisis engulfing Greece. That crisis threatens to spread to other European countries and drag down the U.S. economy as Obama gears up for a re-election bid.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), a member of the Republican leadership, said he thinks it's a "hard sell" for Obama to tell the Europeans what to do.

"I'm not sure we have a lot of credibility when the president goes to Europe based upon the policies that he's implemented here. They have just not been successful," he said.

The message Obama is sending to allies is similar to the one he has sent to Congress for months without success.

In an op-ed in the Financial Times last week in advance of the summit, Obama continued to tout his jobs and deficit reduction plans even though they aren't currently going anywhere. The administration is also pushing other countries to take action to stimulate their economies now while dealing with their long-term fiscal struggles, praising stimulus proposals in Japan, while urging China and other exporters to allow their currencies to gain value as a way to boost domestic consumption.

The G-20 push from the administration includes other items that aren't going anywhere in Congress such as phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and charging a new fee on the biggest banks. The administration is reviving its proposed "financial crisis responsibility fee" to pay for the costs of bank and auto bailouts even though the idea was shot down by Congress last year and hasn't gained traction this year either.

But with European leaders eyeing a new financial transaction tax as part of their own reform talks, the Obama administration is pointing to its proposed fee on the biggest banks as a better alternative.

"We put forward the fee because we think it's more important to put the burden on the largest financial institutions rather than shifting it to retail investors," said Lael Brainard, undersecretary of Treasury for international affairs, at a White House briefing on Monday. "We think that the financial responsibility fee, which is on the liabilities of the largest financial institutions, is well-targeted to make those institutions that are bearing greater risk pay more. It is better targeted to prevent evasion."

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