WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama accused Republicans on Saturday of blocking legislation that would boost the nation's economic recovery and lift a $75 million cap on what oil companies must pay to families and small businesses affected by an oil spill.
Obama said the stalled Senate bill would extend unemployment benefits to workers without jobs and a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. He also said the legislation would save thousands of jobs across the country.
"Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate won't even allow this legislation to come up for a vote," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "And if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop. Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs. Families will pay more for their first home."
Republicans, Obama said, are hurting the country and the economy by refusing to let the legislation move forward. He said the bill meant to hasten the economy recovery and lift the $75 million oil spill limit deserved a vote.
BP had paid out $95 million as of Friday and written about 30,000 checks to settle about half of the 63,000 claims it has received, a company spokesman said.
The chief of the Independent Claims Facility -- the newly created office charged with distributing $20 billion in compensation from BP -- said a plan to handle the remaining damage claims should be in place within about six weeks.
Republicans used their weekly address to claim the president has been too slow to react to the threats posed by the Gulf oil spill and some steps taken by his administration will do more harm than good.
"I'm glad President Obama is finally putting this catastrophe at the top of his agenda, but his response has been too slow," Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said. Wicker criticized Obama for pushing for an energy bill and increases in oil cleanup fees and for calling for a moratorium on deep-water drilling, which he said would cost jobs and raise the price of energy.