Obama welcomes jobless drop, presses Congress for action

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, December 2, 2011 16:33 EDT
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US President Barack Obama(L), accompanied by former US President Bill Clinton (R), speaks to workers at a building under construction in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP.
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President Barack Obama on Friday welcomed news that USunemployment fell to 8.6 percent last month, as he raised the prospect of a Christmas showdown with Republicans over soon-to-expire tax cuts.

“Despite some strong headwinds this year, the American economyhas now created, in the private sector, jobs for the past 21 months in a row,” Obama said, sounding a note of cautious optimism.

“We need to keep that growth going.”

Flanked by his predecessor Bill Clinton, Obama announced a $4 billion public-private plan to juice the economy through investments in energy and government facilities, even as he trained his sights on his next legislative goal.

Speaking hours after the Senate blocked a plan to extend a payroll tax cut worth around $110 billion, Obama criticized Republican opposition to the extension as “unacceptable” and warned of a looming standoff.

“Now is not the time to slam the brakes on the recovery,” he warned.

Both sides, eager to court voters angry at the sour US economy ahead of the November 2012 elections, say they agree on extending the cut but differ bitterly on how to pay for it in an era of yawning government budget deficits.

Late Thursday, lawmakers voted 51-49 for the White House-backed plan, which would pay for the extension through a new tax one people earning over one million dollars.

That was not enough to reach the 60 votes needed to advance under Senate rules.

A separate Republican proposal went down in a 20-78 vote that saw most Republicans oppose their own party’s plan.

But in a signal of the White House’s determination to push the issue, Obama said lawmakers may need to stay in Washington until a deal is done.

“I expect that it’s going to get done before Congress leaves, otherwise Congress may not be leaving. We can all spend Christmas here together.”

“We’re going to keep pushing Congress to make this happen,” he said.

Economists have warned US growth could stall and the United States could even tip back into recession if Congress fails to extend those tax cuts as well as unemployment benefits before the end of the year.

The comments came as the government said unemployment sank to a 32-month low of 8.6 percent in November from 9.0 percent as the economy created 120,000 new jobs.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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