Accessibility links

Democrats Vow Focus on Economic Woes

Majority Democrats in Congress returned to work from a two-week recess, vowing to focus on the state of the U.S. economy, including the housing mortgage crisis. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where Republicans voiced opposition to Democratic proposals.

Although they worked with President Bush on an economic stimulus package earlier this year, Democratic leaders are now seeking to portray him as being out of touch with the economic realities facing Americans.

Pointing to recent statements by the president, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel voices his party's argument that the current economic downturn is much worse than described by President Bush:

"[From] energy costs, the housing issue, college costs, health care costs, you cannot take a hands-off approach when it comes to the wrenching consequences to the middle class families of this country and an economy that is clearly not working for the middle class," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says constituents raised these concerns to lawmakers during the recent two week break, and she issued this challenge to the president.

"I am now calling upon the president to once again join together with us in a bipartisan way and have a bipartisan, bicameral House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, meeting a summit on the economy so that we can address the kitchen table concerns of America's working families," she said.

Pelosi also asserts that the war in Iraq has contributed to economic woes, and could drive the U.S. deeply into a recession and hamper new investments in the economy.

Earlier, House Republican leaders voiced opposition to Democratic proposals in the House and Senate aimed at easing the mortgage and housing foreclosure crisis.

Roy Blunt is the House Republican whip:

"We are very concerned that we not do anything in the Congress that creates more future problems than it solves current problems," he said.

That was in part a response to a proposal by Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts aimed at reducing the number of new foreclosures in the United States:

"You have to deal in an effective way with the cascade of foreclosure that we continue to face," he said.

Representative Frank insists proposals he is working on would not constitute a bailout of speculators in the housing market, something the White House says President Bush would oppose.

Meanwhile, top executives of the five largest U.S. oil companies came under pressure from lawmakers regarding record profits made by the oil industry amid rapidly rising prices.

In this heated exchange, J. Stephen Simon of Exxon Mobile was pressed by Democrat Edward Markey about the level of his company's investments in renewable energy:

SIMON: "[An investment] which is about $100 million invested over two years."

MARKEY: "[Exxon invested] $100 million, but you made $40 billion last year.

SIMON: "Mr. chairman, putting more money into something does not necessarily equal progress."

While the House of Representatives under Democratic control has twice approved legislation to end tax benefits for large oil companies and divert money to solar, wind and other renewable methods, such a measure has not passed the Senate.

Republicans for their part blame high gas prices on legislation enacted by Democrats since they won control of Congress in 2006, while Democrats point to a 125 percent increase in gas prices since President Bush took office eight years ago.