Taking a political victory lap today, President Obama said Congress "did the right thing" by extending the payroll-tax cut and urged lawmakers to "keep going" and act on measures to help the middle class.
"My message to Congress is, don't stop here," the president said at a White House event highlighting the compromise to extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment insurance. "Keep taking the action that people are calling for to keep this economy growing."
The president urged lawmakers to act on his refinance plan to help underwater homeowners and to make his proposed "Buffett Rule" a reality.
"This may be an election year, but the American people have no patience for gridlock and just a reflexive partisanship and just paying attention to poll numbers and the next election instead of the next generation and what we can do to strengthen opportunity for all Americans," Obama said. "Americans don't have the luxury to put off tough decisions, and neither should we."
The payroll-tax cut was a central piece of the jobs plan Obama put forth in September and the White House described it as the last "must-do" piece of legislation before the election.
Calling it a "big deal," the president today said the legislation, which he will sign into law when it reaches his desk later this week, will help middle-class Americans by providing an extra $40 a week in their paychecks.
"That $40 helps to pay the rent, the groceries, the rising cost of gas, which is on a lot of people's minds right now," Obama said as he stood with Americans who will benefit from the tax cut.
"Congress did the right thing here. They listened to the voice of the American people. Each side made a few compromises. We passed some important reforms to help turn unemployment insurance into re- employment insurance, so that more people get training and the skills they need to get back in a job," the president said.
Republicans, however, have questioned the president's cause for celebration. "It's not a victory when the economy is still so weak that you feel the need to grant a temporary reduction in the payroll tax," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a written statement. "It's a victory when this kind of government relief isn't needed at all. That's what we should be rooting for. The fact that the president and his allies in Congress can't see that is all you need to know about their approach to the economy and what they have in store for the future."