Obama Looks to Congress to Jump-Start Economy

Posted August 29, 2010 at 7:18pm

It is largely up to Congress to take action to speed up the economic recovery at this point, but many lawmakers are more focused on “the silly season” of campaigning instead of passing crucial legislation, President Barack Obama said Sunday.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Brian Williams, Obama defended his efforts to boost the economy during the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He emphasized that the economy is growing but not as fast as it needs to be — and he said it falls on Congress to “move immediately” on pending jobs packages in order to jump-start the recovery.

“I said it before I went on vacation, and I’ll say it now that I’m back: We should be passing legislation that helps small businesses get credit,” said Obama, who has been criticizing Senate Republicans for weeks for repeatedly blocking a small-business jobs package from coming up for a vote. The bill is due to come up for debate the week of Sept. 13, when Congress returns from its August recess.

The president emphasized that no single bill is “a magic bullet” but said there is a variety of proposals — the small-business measure, clean energy legislation and infrastructure investments — that can start building momentum for recovery. But each measure will require bipartisan support, as well as the focus of lawmakers to do what is best for the nation instead of for their campaigns, he said.

“Right now we’re in the silly season, political season, which means that for the next two months, there is going to be constantly a contest in the minds of Members of Congress and my Republican friends in Congress between doing what the country needs and what they think may be advantageous in terms of short-term politics,” Obama said.

The president said people without jobs have “every right to be angry” and frustrated if they continue to remain unemployed. But he said his message to the public is that he has “no doubt that we are going to rebound and rebound strongly.”

Obama also touched on progress that has been made in New Orleans in the five years since Hurricane Katrina. He said he gave a speech in the city earlier in the day to send a message to Gulf Coast residents that they “got hit pretty good” in recent years and that “all of America remains concerned and committed” to helping rebuild the region.

In terms of the Gulf Coast’s other recent disaster, the BP oil spill, the president defended his handling of the emergency and said it is “just not accurate” that his administration was slow to respond.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said. “But because of the sturdiness and swiftness of the response, there’s a lot less oil hitting the shores on these beaches given the volume coming out of the BP oil well.”