President Barack Obama says the minority Republicans in the U.S. Congress should stop blocking legislation that would help unemployed Americans and the victims of the Gulf oil spill. Republicans charge that the president is playing politics with the oil disaster.
President Obama says Republicans are intentionally holding up important legislation, which he says reflects "a dreary and familiar politics." "I know the political season is upon us in Washington. But gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, we have got an obligation that goes beyond caring about the next election. So I hope that when Congress returns next week, they do so with a greater spirit of compromise and cooperation. America will be watching," he said.
In his weekly address, the president blasts Republicans for blocking a vote on legislation to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans who are out of work.
The bill failed Thursday when Democrats could not get enough votes to end debate. Republicans support many of the policies in the measure but want it changed to reduce its impact on the deficit.
Mr. Obama says they are also holding up bills to provide relief to financially struggling state governments, prolong a tax credit for first-time homebuyers and give tax cuts to keep research and development jobs in the United States.
The president is also criticizing Republicans for blocking a bill to remove a limit on liability costs for oil companies. "Right now, the law places a $75 million cap on the amount oil companies must pay to families and small businesses who suffer economic losses as a result of a spill like the one we are witnessing in the Gulf Coast. We should remove that cap. But the Republican leadership will not even allow a debate or a vote," he said.
In his party's weekly message, Republican Senator Roger Wicker, from the Gulf state of Mississippi, says President Obama has been slow to put the oil spill at the top of his agenda. "He was slow in listening to state and local leaders, slow in getting skimmers to the Gulf, slow in understanding the seriousness of this crisis, and slow in taking ownership and responsibility for the recovery," he said.
Sunday marks two months since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded, killing eleven workers and spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Senator Wicker charges that the president's policies on the spill have done more harm than good. He says Mr. Obama spent too much of his speech to the nation last Tuesday promoting a proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The senator says the so-called "cap and trade" system would drive up energy prices and send American jobs overseas. "Now is not the time to push a controversial, job-killing, partisan agenda through Congress. In addition to devastating our economy, this proposal would do nothing to fix the disastrous leak or clean up our beaches, marshes and waters," he said.
The Mississippi lawmaker ended his address with an appeal to fellow Americans to visit his state and its neighbors along the Gulf, which have seen a huge drop in tourism since the oil spill.