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Obama Touts Economic Growth; GOP Blasts Health Reform

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With the U.S. economy growing for the first time in a year, President Barack Obama says the country is moving in the right direction. But the president admits that prosperity still lies far ahead.

This week's report that the U.S. gross domestic product grew by 3.5 percent from July to September shows encouraging prospects for the nation's economy. For President Obama, it's a welcome relief from months of bad economic news.

"But today, I am pleased to offer some better news that, while not cause for celebration, is certainly reason to believe that we are moving in the right direction," he said.

In his weekly Internet and radio address, the president says some signs of a turnaround are due to his $787 billion economic stimulus plan, which he says has saved or created more than one million jobs.

"While we have a long way to go before we return to prosperity, and there will undoubtedly be ups and downs along the road, it is also true that we have come a long way," said Mr. Obama. "It is easy to forget that it was only several months ago that the economy was shrinking rapidly and many economists feared another Great Depression."

The president's optimism is tempered by a 9.8 percent unemployment rate in September, the highest in 26 years. And the October report due next week could show joblessness above 10 percent. Mr. Obama acknowledges that many Americans are still hurting, but says progress has been made.

"We will not create the jobs we need unless the economy is growing; that is why this GDP report is a good sign," said the president. "And we can see clearly now that the steps my administration is taking are making a difference, blunting the worst of this recession and helping to bring about its conclusion."

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One aspect of the president's economic plan, a proposal to reform the way Americans pay for health care, is drawing more criticism from opposition Republicans. In the party's weekly message, House of Representatives Minority Leader John Boehner says the bill being advocated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi will do more harm than good.

"Speaker Pelosi's health bill will raise the costs of Americans' health insurance premiums, it will kill jobs with tax hikes and new mandates, and it will cut seniors' Medicare benefits," he said.

Boehner says the Republicans' alternate plan for health reform would have several benefits the Democrats' plan does not.

"Number one: Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines," he said. "Number two: Allow individuals, small businesses and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and unions do today."

Boehner is also calling for limiting malpractice suits against doctors and hospitals.