Obama scolds Congress for "skipping town"


(CBS News) If members of Congress hadn't "skipped town" last week, President Obama said in a particularly pointed weekly address, U.S. veterans would be enjoying a strengthened job corps, farmers would have the means to respond to natural disasters like the recent Midwest drought, homeowners would be saving an extra $3,000 a year on their mortgages, and 98 percent of Americans would have peace of mind that their taxes won't be raised on Jan. 1.

"Last week, without much fanfare, Members of the House of Representatives banged a gavel, turned out the lights, and rushed home, declaring their work finished for now. If that frustrates you, it should - because their work isn't finished," the president said. "Apparently, some Members of Congress are more worried about their jobs and their paychecks this campaign season than they are about yours."

For nearly three minutes, the president reprimanded members of the House - Republicans, specifically - for leaving a mountain of unfinished business on their desks when they adjourned Friday after only eight days in session. He cited bills which, if passed, would provide emergency response aid to farmers, help veterans find jobs after returning from service, and allow homeowners to refinance "at historically low rates."

"All of these ideas would strengthen our economy and help the middle class right now - all of them are supported by Democrats, Republicans and Independents," he said, calling on members of Congress to act quickly on the bills when they return to the Hill in November. "There's no reason to wait."

Perhaps most pressingly - considering a Jan. 1 trigger that would immediately spike tax rates across the board - Congress has not yet passed a bill that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000, something the president said "we all agree on."

"Republicans in Congress have refused to budge," he continued. "They're holding tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans hostage until we pass tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans."

Delivering the GOP response, though, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. - the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee - said it is Senate Democrats who should be faulted for the legislative gridlock. The Senate adjourned early Saturday morning after passing a spending measure, and will not return until after Election Day.

"The American people see the financial chaos - they know it must stop," Sessions said. "Adding to the chaos, the Senate Democrat Majority has decided to adjourn through November having utterly failed to meet its most basic obligations. For the last three years, in a time of national crisis, Senate Democrats have deliberately violated the legal requirement to produce a budget plan.

"How can they ask the American people to send them one more dime in new taxes when they won't even meet their legal duty to write a financial plan and tell how that money will be spent?" Sessions continued. "If given the chance, Republicans will get this government under control. A Republican Senate will pass a budget."

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