Obama Says Attention of Congress Must Turn to Boosting Jobs

President Barack Obama said with the U.S. debt limit extended through 2012 the priority for his administration and Congress should be spurring economic growth and job creation.

“We’ve got to rebuild this economy and the sense of security that the middle class has felt slipping away for years,” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “And while deficit reduction has to be part of our economic strategy, it’s not the only thing we have to do.”

Obama renewed calls for Congress to pass pending free trade agreements, approve a tax credit for companies hiring veterans, extend the temporary payroll tax cut for workers and unemployment benefits and support infrastructure loans to create construction jobs.

Obama’s address was recorded before Standard & Poor announced it downgraded the U.S. AAA credit rating for the first time. In dropping the ranking one level to AA+, S&P slammed the nation’s political process and said lawmakers failed to cut spending enough to reduce record deficits.

Obama on Aug. 2 signed a debt-limit compromise to avoid a U.S. default. The compromise raises the nation’s debt ceiling until 2013 and threatens automatic spending cuts to enforce $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Obama has said he will push for increased revenue as well as spending cuts to narrow the long-term budget gap.

Next Steps

The president said that with the debt-ceiling issue resolved for now, the government’s efforts should focus on job creation when lawmakers return from their August recess.

“We need Democrats and Republicans to work together to help grow this economy,” Obama said. “We’ve got to put politics aside to get some things done. That’s what the American people expect of us. And there are a number of steps that Congress can take right away, when they return in September.”

The Labor Department yesterday reported that the nation’s jobless rate fell to 9.1 percent. U.S. employers added 117,000 jobs in July, more than forecast, and average hourly earnings climbed 0.4 percent.

Representative Michael Grimm of New York said in the Republican address that the jobs report “shows that President Obama’s ‘stimulus’-driven policies are simply not working.” Grimm said spending, taxes and regulations are depressing job creation and that “this is not the country we grew up in.”

Grimm said although he voted for the debt-limit compromise, “the cuts and reforms do not go nearly far enough.

“We were right to hold the president accountable on the debt limit, because he’s already back to proposing more ‘stimulus’ spending, higher taxes, and even more regulations. Doubling down on the same failed policies is not the answer.”

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