Obama warns leaders in Congress to quickly extend tax cuts

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged congressional leaders to quickly extend tax cuts and spending programs, warning that without such steps the economy could "slide backwards."

In a three-page letter to Democratic and Republican leaders, Obama said the economy is at a "critical juncture" in recovering from the worst of the financial crisis and recession.

"While our efforts over the past 18 months have helped break the freefall and restore growth, it is essential that we continue to explore additional measures to spur job creation and build momentum toward recovery, even as we establish a path to long-term fiscal discipline," Obama wrote in the letter.


The president earlier on Saturday criticized Senate Republicans for stalling legislation that would prevent cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Legislation that would prevent the cuts is part of a broader package of tax and spending provisions that is slated for Senate consideration next week. Republicans say they are concerned the Democratic package would add to the deficit and debt.

Obama said the legislation, and additional efforts, would help small businesses and state and local governments in particular.

"While state and local governments have already taken difficult steps to balance their budgets, if additional action is not taken hundreds of thousands of additional jobs could be lost," Obama said in the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

"At this critical moment, we cannot afford to slide backwards just as our recovery is taking hold. We must take these emergency measures," Obama said.

"But even in the face of public outrage, Democrats are showing either that they just don't get it on this issue of the debt, or that they just don't care," McConnell said. "Right now, among other challenges, we have a debt crisis, a jobs crisis, a housing crisis, a financial crisis, and an oil spill that the American people clearly don't believe government is effectively responding to. So you can understand the American people's skepticism when they're told that simply adding more government is the solution to government's previous failures."

This story was updated at 10 p.m.