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Obama chides GOP for blocking stimulus

President Barack Obama accused Republicans on Saturday of blocking legislation that would boost the nation's economic recovery.
/ Source: news services

President Barack Obama accused Republicans on Saturday of blocking legislation that would boost the nation's economic recovery and lift a $75 million cap on what oil companies must pay to families and small businesses affected by an oil spill.

Obama said the stalled Senate bill would extend unemployment benefits to workers without jobs and a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. He also said the legislation would save thousands of jobs across the country.

"Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate won't even allow this legislation to come up for a vote," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "And if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop. Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs. Families will pay more for their first home."

Republicans, Obama said, are hurting the country and the economy by refusing to let the legislation move forward. He said the bill meant to hasten the economy recovery and lift the $75 million oil spill limit deserved a vote.

BP had paid out $95 million as of Friday and written about 30,000 checks to settle about half of the 63,000 claims it has received, a company spokesman said.

'Dreary and familiar politics'
The chief of the Independent Claims Facility — the newly created office charged with distributing $20 billion in compensation from BP — said a plan to handle the remaining damage claims should be in place within about six weeks.

"I know the political season is upon us in Washington. But gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country," Obama said, nodding to the mid-term congressional vote that could weaken his Democratic Party's hold on power.

"That's why I was disappointed this week to see a dreary and familiar politics get in the way of our ability to move forward on a series of critical issues that have a direct impact on people's lives," Obama added.

Senate Republicans on Thursday defeated a $55 billion bill by Democrats to extend jobless benefits and popular tax breaks, arguing it added too much to the U.S. deficit, projected to hit a record $1.56 trillion in fiscal 2010.

But the White House wants to boost jobs now, and sees the deficit debate as a way for Republicans to hamper its response to painfully high unemployment and reap rewards in November if voters turn on Democrats for failing to lift hiring.

The U.S. jobless rate was 9.7 percent in May and the economy remains fragile is it recovers from a deep recession inherited — as the White House consistently points out — from Republican President George W. Bush.

Obama traveled to the Midwest on Friday to showcase jobs created by a $787 billion emergency spending package he signed last year. Voter worry over the deficit is likely to dominate in November, alongside anxiety over the economy and employment.

The trip out of Washington ended a week overshadowed by BP Plc's Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, and Obama used the example of Republican opposition in Congress to characterize his political opponents as allies of the oil industry.

Republicans used their weekly address to claim the president has been too slow to react to the threats posed by the Gulf oil spill and some steps taken by his administration will do more harm than good.

"I'm glad President Obama is finally putting this catastrophe at the top of his agenda, but his response has been too slow," Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said.

Wicker criticized Obama for pushing for an energy bill and increases in oil cleanup fees and for calling for a moratorium on deep-water drilling, which he said would cost jobs and raise the price of energy.