By Amie Parnes - 02/21/12 05:42 PM EST
Basking in the glory of his recent payroll tax cut victory, President Obama urged Congress on Tuesday to move ahead on other policies he has put forward that will help improve the economy and benefit middle-class Americans.
“My message to Congress is, ‘Don’t stop here. Keep going,' ” Obama said at the White House in a 10-minute victory-lap speech.
Obama briefly touched on rising gas prices, saying the payroll tax cut extension will help families who are struggling to fill their tanks.
For the typical family, he said the tax cut was "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," he said.
Fearing a repeat of their December defeat, Republicans retreated on the payroll tax cut extension. The GOP hopes to now pivot to gas prices, where they believe they can hammer the Obama administration, especially if drivers pay more and more at the pump through Labor Day.
Obama, who commended Congress for doing “the right thing” on the tax cut, said that while 2012 might be an election year, “the American people have no patience for gridlock and just a reflexive partisanship.
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“Americans don’t have the luxury to put off tough decisions and neither should we,” the president said. “There’s a lot more we can do and there’s plenty of time to do it if we want to build an economy where every American has a chance to find a good job that pays well and supports a family.”
Seizing on his recent victories, Obama called on Congress to pass his housing plan that aims to help homeowners save more than $3,000 a year. At the same time, he also urged Congress to “step up” and support small businesses, and the so-called “Buffett Rule” that says millionaires should pay a higher tax rate than the middle class.
“This is common sense,” he said.
But he also warned that when Congress stalls, “[Vice President] Joe [Biden] and I, we’re gonna act.”
“In the months to come, wherever we have an opportunity, we’re going to take steps on our own to keep this economy moving,” he said. “Because we’ve got a choice right now: We can either settle for a country where a few people are doing very well and everybody else is having to just struggle to get by, or we can build an economy where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody’s doing their fair share. And everybody is taking responsibility and everybody’s playing by the same set of rules. And that’s the economy I want.”