Thursday 20 July 2017

All-party deal needed to end crisis -- Obama

US president in plea to 'tackle woes once and for all'

Kate Andersen Brower in Washington

PRESIDENT Obama last night made an impassioned appeal to both Democrats and Republicans to tackle America's economic woes once and for all.

Mr Obama said that the public was "frustrated" with the stalemate in Washington and threw down the gauntlet to politicians on capitol Hill to approve a jobs bill and take "concrete" steps to reduce the deficit.

Everyone should be able to agree on tax breaks, spending money on roads and other infrastructure and on small business hiring incentives, the president said at an unscheduled appearance at the daily White House briefing after a meeting with advisers.

"The sooner the business community has a sense that we've got our act together here in Washington and can move forward on big serious issues," he said, "the better off the entire country is going to be."

The president met earlier with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, house majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio and senate republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He said he hoped it would be the first in a regular schedule of such meetings.

The elections in November will determine the make-up of Congress as both parties confront voter anger over the economy and the federal budget deficit.

Also on the agenda was Obama's plan to create a commission to recommend ways to tackle the deficit, which is forecast to hit $1.6 trillion this year. He said that would demonstrate to the public that the government was taking "concrete action" to reduce the shortfall. "The American people are frustrated with the lack of progress on some key issues," he said at the start of the meeting with the congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room.

Mr Obama said he hoped Congress would approve legislation, like the jobs bill, that would "start lowering the unemployment rate."

Mr Reid said after returning to the Capitol that the bill would be introduced today. It includes a $20bn extension of a programme to build and repair roads and bridges.

The unemployment rate fell in January to 9.7 pc from 10 pc, the government reported on February 5. The administration has forecast the rate will average 10pc for the year.

Agreement

Mitch McConnell told reporters after the meeting that Republicans may find agreement with Democrats on some of the measures mentioned by Mr Obama in his State of the Union address, including expanding nuclear power, drilling offshore for oil and gas and passing trade agreements hung up in Congress.

"These are areas where I think there could be pretty broad bipartisan support to go forward on a collaborative basis," he said.

A jobs bill "offers the best chance for something that can be characterised as bipartisan," said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Republicans have been highly critical of the effort, with John Boehner saying the administration's stimulus passed last year failed to create the promised number of jobs and simply added to the nation's debt.

Mr McConnell said the best chance of securing Senate approval of jobs legislation would be to draft "a small package."

Irish Independent

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