President Obama on Saturday morning warned the nation of a “national catastrophe” if Congress does not move quickly to pass and implement his economic rescue plan, even as he lauded the Senate’s movement toward passage of an $827 billion version of the bill.
“Yesterday began with some devastating news with regard to our economic crisis,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the Labor Department report Friday showing the loss of nearly 600,000 jobs in January, which moved the national unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent.
“But I’m pleased to say it ended on a more positive note,” he said of the deal struck between Senate Democratic leaders and a group of moderates over the issue of how much spending to cut from the massive bill.
Mr. Obama praised the Senate for responding “appropriately to the urgency this moment demands.”
But the president continued to wage a rhetorical battle against the conservative Republican point of view on the stimulus bill, ridiculing those in the GOP who he said offer only tax cuts as a solution to the economic crisis.
And he continued to strike the urgent, impatient tone that he first sounded in remarks to Energy Department employees on Thursday, and which he turned up to full throttle in a speech to House Democrats Thursday night in Williamsburg.
“If we don’t move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe. Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes, and their health care. Millions more will have to put their dreams on hold,” he said.
Mr. Obama will go on the road Monday, the day the Senate is expected to vote on the stimulus, to promote his plan in Elkhart, Ind., where the White House said the unemployment rate has jumped “from 4.7 percent to 15.3 percent since last year.”
On Monday night he’ll hold his first press conference as president, and on Tuesday he’ll again travel domestically, going to Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment has gone from six percent to 10 percent, according to the White House.
The president will hold town hall meetings in both Elkhart and Fort Myers.
Mr. Obama’s weekly address, formatted for radio broadcast release and posted on the White House website and the White House YouTube channel, was in large part a rehash of what has essentially become a stump speech over the last two days, as Mr. Obama has pressed the Senate to pass his plan.
But Mr. Obama, who was set to travel with his wife and two young daughters to Camp David for the first time Saturday afternoon, made no news in the address, which marked a shift in his usage of the weekly event.
Following his election in November, and prior to his inauguration, he used the address to roll out new details of his plans for what he would do as president. This marked a change from the way President Bush had used the address, which his White House released only for radio broadcast.
Mr. Obama’s address Saturday, because it was mostly a repeat of earlier talking points, hearkened back to the radio addresses of his predecessor.