POLITICS -- October 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM EDT
Obama to Congress on Jobs Bill: 'This Is Not a Game'
Updated 3:11 p.m. | President Obama challenged members of Congress to vote for his $450 billion jobs plan or explain why not. "This is not a game," he said.
"They need to do something," he added later. "I am ready, eager to work with them."
The president said there is no doubt that U.S. economic growth has slowed and that confidence has been hurt by economic problems in Japan and Europe.
President Obama said his jobs bill could act as a cushion for the economy if the situation in Europe worsens. He also said that he's open for a variety of ways to pay for the jobs plan.
Asked about a recent proposal by Democrats to add a surtax on those making more than $1 million a year, the president said: "We've always said that we would be open to a variety of ways to pay for it."
"Keep in mind, though, that what I've always said is that not only do we have to pay for the jobs bill, but we also still have to do more in order to reduce the debt and deficit," he added. "So the approach that the Senate is taking I'm comfortable with in order to deal with the jobs bill."
With the Senate expected to debate the jobs package next week, Mr. Obama pressed each senator to think "long and hard about what's at stake."
"Any senator out there who's thinking about voting against this jobs bill when it comes up for a vote needs to explain exactly why they would oppose something we know would improve our economic situation at such an urgent time," he said.
President Obama predicted dire political consequences for his opponents if they don't go along with his jobs plan.
"I think the American people will run them out of town because they are frustrated and they know we need to do something big, something bold."
But congressional Republicans are opposed to the higher taxes the president and other Democrats want to use to pay for his proposal. They accuse him of playing "campaigner in chief" instead of negotiating with them.
"If the goal is to create jobs, then why are we even talking about tax hikes?" Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.
Saying he understands the public's concerns about how the nation's financial system works, Mr. Obama also said that the "Occupy Wall Street" protests against economic inequality express the frustrations of the American public. Americans see Wall Street as an example of the financial industry not always following the rules, he said.
Asked why there hadn't been more prosecutions in the financial sector, the president said that many of the activities that precipitated the financial crisis in 2008 were not necessarily illegal. He said many financial schemes were probably immoral, inappropriate or reckless and required new regulations.
The president also said the European Union must act fast to deal with its debt crisis, but he said he is confident that leaders there are ready to take necessary steps.
He said he hopes that European leaders have a "very clear, concrete plan of action that is sufficient to the task" by next month's meeting of the Group of 20 rich and developing nations. President Obama said the European debt crisis had already affected the American economy.
Other topics covered at the press conference, which lasted more than an hour, included Solyndra, and the "Fast and Furious" gun operation.