Obama: Congress ‘should explain to the American people’ its inaction on economy

McClatchy NewspapersJune 8, 2012 

— President Barack Obama Friday branded as “offensive” suggestions that the White House may have leaked classified information.

Washington has been rocked recently by news media reports about the U.S. use of a computer virus to attack Iran’s nuclear program, as well as a classified “kill list” of terror suspects targeted for U.S. drone strikes.

When such information surfaces, the president said, “That makes the job of folks on the front lines tougher and it makes my job tougher. Which is why, since I’ve been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation.”

He pledged “mechanisms in place” to help root out the source of the leaks.

Obama addressed the issue at the end of a brief White House news conference that was designed largely to show the president is pushing hard to ease the nation’s ailing economy.

Obama’s jobs package, outline to a joint session of Congress in September, has been largely stalled because the Republican-run House of Representatives has its own ideas about how to improve the still-fragile economy.The two sides have had virtually no dialogue about common ground.

“There’s no excuse for not passing these ideas,” he said. If Congress won’t act, Obama insisted, “They should explain to the American people why.”

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives keeps passing bills its leaders say will increase jobs—it passed another Thursday repealing a tax on medical devices—but the efforts usually die in the Democratic-run Senate.

The Senate, in turn, keeps taking up Democratic ideas, notably a higher tax on millionaires. But the measures routinely fail to get the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, and go nowhere. Democrats control 53 of the 100 seats.

One of the key reasons for this country’s economic concerns involves Europe’s financial crises, and Obama tried to offer reassuring words.

“The challenges they face are solvable,” Obama said, adding “The sooner they act the more decisive and concrete their action, the sooner people and markets will regain some confidence.”

Obama’s remarks come at the end of a rough few days for him and his re-election bid. In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker easily survived a recall attempt by Democrats. Obama kept his distance, but the party was active in trying to beat the conservative incumbent.

Thursday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republicans reported raising $76.8 million last month, well above the $60 million raised by Obama and Democrats.

And a worse-than-expected new May jobs report has worried financial markets and raised new questions about the economy’s strength.

The May unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.2 percent, but the Labor Department said that U.S. employers added a net of just 69,000 jobs last month, about half of what was anticipated. The private sector created 82,000 jobs, but 13,000 were lost in the government sector. And 28,000 more construction jobs were lost.

The government also revised downward its earlier estimates of job growth for March and April. Markets reacted with huge losses, and Republicans pounced. Romney tried to compare his record as Massachusetts governor, when the jobless rate was far lower, with Obama’s.

Romney Friday released a new ad citing the difference—though he failed to mention he governed before the Great Recession, which began in late 2007. Romney, who did not seek a second term, left office in January 2007.

(email:dlightman@mcclatchydc.com; lclark@mcclatchydc.com); Twitter: @lightmandavid

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