President Barack Obama distanced himself from a deeply divided U.S. Congress on Thursday, pledging to deliver fresh ideas to create jobs and slamming lawmakers for "bickering" that gets in the way of recovery.
In a passionate speech to auto workers in Michigan, Obama described last week's U.S. credit rating downgrade as "a self-inflicted wound" and said the refusal on Capitol Hill to put country ahead of party was suppressing the economy.
"There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win. And that has to stop," he told a crowd at Johnson Controls, which is ramping up production of car batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Obama's hopes for reelection in 2012 will hinge on his success in lowering unemployment, currently pinned above 9 percent, boosting sluggish growth and restoring confidence lost from the Standard & Poor's downgrade and fractious debt talks.
"I'm going to be putting out more proposals, week by week, that will help businesses hire and put people back to work," he told the Michigan event.
But Obama did not immediately spell out any new initiatives beyond renewing his call for Congress to extend a payroll tax cut, advance trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, and deliver patent reform.
The Democratic president has few tools left to stoke growth. Fiscal stimulus efforts during the 2008-2009 recession, including a multibillion-dollar auto industry bailout, have vastly expanded the budget deficit.
Now the United States is under market pressure to slash it or face higher funding costs.
Republicans in Congress -- and on the presidential campaign trail -- also strongly oppose big, new spending programs and are giving the White House little wiggle room to boost hiring through public works programs or business incentives.
Critics have complained Obama failed to adequately calm Americans as markets whipsawed this week, in one of the most dramatic periods in the stock market since he took office amid the financial crisis in January 2009.
But the president remains more popular than Congress, whose approval rating slumped after a toxic debate to lift the U.S. debt ceiling that prompted the ratings downgrade by S&P.
Obama blamed the market gyrations on forces beyond his control, noting European financial turmoil was "lapping up" on U.S. shores and saying the S&P downgrade "could have been entirely avoided" if Congress had been willing to compromise.
Later, at a celebrity-studded campaign fundraiser at a New York City residence, Obama described political gridlock as a primary threat to the U.S. economy, and one he hoped would be overcome in the 2012 election.
"There is not a single problem we are facing that we cannot solve," he told the dinner party of about 50 guests, who included the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, the clothing designer Vera Wang and the comedian Jimmy Fallon.
Obama also struck a defensive tone about the attractiveness of the U.S. economy to international investors, noting the financial market turmoil exacerbated by debt crises in Europe had driven more investors into U.S. bonds.
"When the stock market went down, what did everybody buy after the downgrade? U.S. Treasuries. Everybody understands that the United States still has the greatest economic potential," he said. "The market voted with its feet in terms of its confidence in the marketplace."