Obama praises Congress for payroll tax cut extension, but says "don't stop here"
In remarks celebrating the passage last week of a bill extending the payroll tax cut, President Obama on Tuesday praised the rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress -- and urged lawmakers to continue supporting similar measures aimed at helping the middle-class.
"My message to Congress is, don't stop here," Mr. Obama said, speaking in front a handful of Americans who will benefit from the bill. "Keep taking the action that people are calling for."
After extended bickering on the matter late last year, Congress on Thursday approved a $144 billion package to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance through the end of 2012, putting differences aside in a rare display of bipartisanship.
The original payroll tax break in 2011 cut two percent from payroll taxes used to pay for Social Security, lowering the tax rate for 160 million Americans. The tax break was extended for two months at the end of last year, and the new bill is an extension for the rest 2012. The average worker receives a $1,000 tax break over the course of the year due to the tax cut.
"For the typical American family, it's a big deal. It means $40 extra in their paycheck. And 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," said Mr. Obama, who was joined by Vice President Joe Biden. "More people spending more money means more businesses will be able to hire more workers - and the entire economy gets another boost."
"Congress did the right thing," he said.
Mr. Obama praised lawmakers for listening "to the voices of the American people," but reminded voters that he had been attempting to push the payroll tax cut extension through Congress for months.
"You will remember, I called on Congress to pass this middle class tax cut back in September as part of my broader jobs plan," he said.
He added: "In the end, everyone acted in the interest of the middle class, and people who are striving to get into the middle class through hard work, and that's how it should be. That's what Americans expect, and that's what Americans deserve."
Mr. Obama's jobs plan stalled in Congress last fall, but he has vowed to push its various components through the House and Senate piecemeal. He has also used his executive powers to act independently of Congress when possible.
Still, the president said Tuesday, he needs Congress' help.
"We're doing what we can administratively" to assist struggling homeowners and unemployed Americans, Mr. Obama said, but argued that in order to extend benefits to a larger number of Americans, "we need Congress to do it."
"This may be an election year but the American people have no patience for gridlock and just the reflexive partisanship and paying attention to poll numbers and the next election instead of the next generation," he said. "Americans don't have the luxury to put off tough decisions, and neither should we."
Mr. Obama has not yet signed the bill because Congress has not yet sent it to him.
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