By Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans sparred with President Barack Obama in their Saturday media addresses over proposals to create jobs, further evidence of the difficulty of bipartisan solutions to the nation's pressing problems.
Obama pushed Congress to use $30 billion that had been set aside to bail out Wall Street to start a new program that provides loans to small businesses, which the White House calls the engine for job growth. Republicans, meanwhile, taunted Obama with a familiar refrain: Where are the jobs the president promised in exchange for the billions of dollars already spent?
The barb came a day after the government reported an unexpected decline in the unemployment rate, from 10% to 9.7%. It was the first drop in seven months but offered little consolation for the 8.4 million jobs that have vanished since the recession began.
"Even though our economy is growing again, these are still tough times for America," Obama said. "Too many businesses are still shuttered. Too many families can't make ends meet. And while yesterday, we learned that the unemployment rate has dropped below 10% for the first time since summer, it is still unacceptably high — and too many Americans still can't find work."
To help the recovery, Obama asked Congress to use leftover money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to provide to small banks so they can make more loans to small businesses. Republicans have criticized the move, arguing any money leftover from the bailout should be used to reduce the budget deficit.
In the weekly GOP address, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas chided Obama for proposing a 2011 budget last week that would increase spending, taxes and the national debt.