President Barack Obama, facing a fragile economy as he starts his re-election campaign, Friday called on Congress to create work for Americans by passing his jobs bill and urged European leaders to act aggressively in the face of the continent's looming economic challenges.
During a statement to reporters in the White House briefing room, the president said that while the country was fighting back from a deep economic crisis, a major concern was Europe, which is America's largest trading partner.
"If Europe goes into a recession, that means we're selling fewer goods, services," the president said, noting problems in Paris and Madrid could hurt business in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.
He said Europe's leaders understood the "urgent need to act" and the White House had been in constant contact with them.
Obama specifically said European leaders should stabilize their financial industry with capital injections into banks while also creating a framework for growth.
"The bottom line is the solutions to these problems are hard, but there are solutions," Obama said.
Addressing the Greek economic crisis, Obama said "it is in everybody's interest for Greece to remain in the eurozone."
Obama's job legislation, which he proposed last year, would lower the unemployment rate and strengthen the economy, he said.
"Congress refused to pass the jobs plan in full," he said. "They left most of the plan just sitting there. In light of the headwinds facing us now, I urge them to reconsider."
The legislation, he maintained, would especially help construction workers get back to work along with state and local government employees, including laid-off teachers, firemen and police officers.
"If Congress decides they aren't going to do anything about this because it's an election year," he said, "then they should explain why." The legislative body is due to recess July 4.
Republicans hit back at Obama's claims Friday.
"It's baffling that in the face of all evidence to the contrary, this President still believes that spending money we don't have to inflate the government is the answer to America's economic problems," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
McConnell said a better plan of action would be to extend the Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year, an idea the administration adamantly opposes.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also said he was flabbergasted at Obama's statement that the US private sector was doing relatively well.
"Did he see the job numbers that came out last week? The private sector is not doing fine," Cantor said.
Cantor said the country's financial woes were caused by the Obama administration's "failed stimulus policies and other items in his agenda" rather than Europe and Congress.
Obama's remarks came a week after a report showed the economy added a disappointing 69,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent, raising concerns about the president's re-election chances in a campaign centered largely on the economy.