President Barack Obama delivers a speech from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)
(CBS News) President Obama urged Congress to take steps to boost the economy and called on Republican lawmakers to explain why they are not taking action if they don't.
"Right now people in this town should be focused on doing everything we can to keep our recovery going and keeping our country strong," Mr. Obama said one week after the Labor Department said the unemployment rate rose a tick in May to 8.2 percent after declining for several months.
The U.S. unemployment rate has been higher than 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch since government records began in 1948.
The president blamed Republicans for blocking his so-called "To Do" list of items that lawmakers can do to boost economic growth in the near term, including proposals to give tax breaks to small businesses that boost hiring and a proposal to make it easier for homeowners who are current on their mortgage to refinance at lower interest rates.
"Now if Congress decides despite all that they aren't going to do anything about this simply because it is an election year, then they should explain to the American people why," Mr. Obama told reporters.
The comments continue his strategy of hitting Congress for obstructionism, echoing Harry Truman's famous 1948 victory after blaming a Republican Congress for doing nothing.
Mr. Obama spoke in overtly political terms.
"The recipes that (Republicans) are promoting are basically the kinds of policies that would add weakness to the economy. Would result in furthers layoffs. Would not provide relief in the housing market. And would result, I think most economists estimate, in lower growth and fewer jobs, not more," Mr. Obama said.
The president noted that the weakest job growth in the economy is in construction and state and local government hiring.
"And so if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry," he said.