President Barack Obama took time at the end of a busy week Friday to cite what he says is enormous progress in repairing the U.S. economy. The president faces ongoing criticism of his policies from opposition Republicans.
The most significant legislative accomplishment for the president and majority Democrats since the historic health care overhaul achieved earlier this year, is the financial regulatory reform bill Mr. Obama signed on Thursday.
It is the outcome of almost two years of intense debate on Capitol Hill concerning the best ways to respond to excesses on Wall Street, protect consumers, and avoid another financial system collapse.
Speaking in the White House Roosevelt Room, the president said the new law will protect consumers and the economy from recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the worst financial breakdown since the Great Depression.
"It's a reform that will help us put a stop to the abusive practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies and ensure that people get the straight, unvarnished information that they need before they take out a loan or open a credit card," he said. "It will bring the shadowy deals that caused the financial crisis into the light of day, and it will end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street firms and give shareholders a say on executive compensation."
To underscore his points, the president referred to a new report by Ken Feinberg, who Mr. Obama appointed to oversee compensation issues. The report said 17 banks gave top executives $1.6 billion in bonuses while they were receiving billions of dollars in government bailout funds.
The president pointed to two other achievements - a six-month extension of emergency government benefits for people out of work, and an initiative to reduce waste in government.
Mr. Obama pressed for Senate action on another piece of legislation; tax incentives and lending for small businesses. And he sounded a theme he will use as he campaigns for Democratic candidates before the November mid-term congressional elections.
"The folks who I have met with across this country, they cannot afford any more political games," he said. "They need us to do what they sent us here to do. They didn't send us here to wage a never-ending campaign; they didn't send us here to do what is best for our political party. They sent us here to do what is best for the United States of America and all our citizens, whether Democrats or Republicans or Independents. In other words, they sent us here to govern."
As the president spotlights achievements, Republicans continue to criticize him on virtually every one of his policies. Indiana Republican Mike Pence asserted that President Obama's policies and those of Democrats will lead to huge tax increases.
"As we have done on their failed stimulus policy, as we have did on their national energy tax, as we did on their government take over of health care, House Republicans will stand in the gap to protect taxpayers from the largest tax increase in American history," he said.
Democratic leaders meanwhile cited Republican opposition as they acknowledged they had given up on passing comprehensive clean energy/climate change legislation before the August recess.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said "Unfortunately this time we don't have a single Republican to work with in achieving this goal," Reid said. "For me, it is terribly disappointing."
"We will continue to work with the senators to craft important, comprehensive legislation," said Carol Browner, Director of the White House Office on Energy and Climate Change Policy.
Having accomplished the bulk of the pre-congressional recess agenda, the president will increasingly focus on the November congressional elections, campaigning for Democrats and pressing his messages about economic recovery.
The White House announced he will travel to New Jersey next week, a state that remains strongly Democratic. The unemployment rate there is about 9.6 percent, slightly more than the national level.
Also announced, presidential visits next week and in early August to Chrysler, General Motors and Ford automobile plants in Michigan and Chicago, Illinois. The White House says these will highlight a U.S. auto industry that is strengthening as a result of the president's actions to save it.