U.S. President Barack Obama says Congress is flirting with catastrophe by failing to agree on a massive economic stimulus package. Mr. Obama spoke after the government reported another month of severe job losses in the United States.
Continuing a marked shift in tone over the last two days, President Obama said legislative bickering over the proposed recovery plan is unacceptable at a time when the economy is failing and Americans are suffering great hardship.
To drive the point home, the president noted that millions of U.S. workers have lost their jobs during the current recession, including an astounding 600,000 last month alone.
"It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay, or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work," he said. "Now is the time for Congress to act."
The president spoke as heated and sometimes-acrimonious Senate debate continued on the stimulus plan. Republicans and some moderate Democrats are attempting to pare down and refocus spending in the Senate version of the bill, which currently comes with a 900-plus billion dollar price tag.
Mr. Obama said further delay on the economic plan could turn a "crisis" into a "catastrophe".
"If we do not do anything, millions more jobs will be lost," he said. "More families will lose their homes. More Americans will go without healthcare. We will continue to send our children to crumbling schools, and be crippled by our dependence on foreign oil."
Mr. Obama spoke at the unveiling of a board of economic advisors drawn from outside the administration. Members include business and labor leaders, private economists, and former government officials. Designed to give the president input and perspectives beyond those provided by his cabinet, the board will be headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
Volcker said he shares the president's sense or urgency in confronting the economic slump.
Republicans say they agree on the need for action, but want a bill that actually stimulates growth and job creation.
"We will not support an aimless spending spree that masquerades as a stimulus," said Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell. "The economy is in terrible shape. But putting another trillion dollars on the nation's credit card is not something we should do lightly."
A House version of the bill passed on a party-line vote last week. House and Senate versions would have to be reconciled into a single, final bill. President Obama says he wants to sign a recovery plan into law by next Friday.