President Barack Obama plans to participate in town hall-style meetings next week in two cities that have struggled amid the crumbling economy.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Friday said Obama plans to visit Elkhart, Ind., on Monday to tell residents what his $900 billion stimulus plan would mean for them.
The president also plans a Tuesday trip to Fort Myers, Fla., to try to sell his economic recovery plan, which is being delayed in Congress as lawmakers argue about its price and its priorities.
Indiana's Elkhart-Goshen region saw its unemployment rate soar to 15.3 percent in December. In Florida's Fort Myers, unemployment has climbed to 10 percent.
Obama's 'road trips' comes after he stepped up his criticism of Republican lawmakers Friday for delaying passage of the stimulus bill.
- Obama Steps Up Attacks Over Stimulus Package
He dismissed at least one complaint about the bill. "So then you get the argument, well, 'this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.' What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point," he said to laughter from House Democrats at a political retreat in Williamsburg, Va.
A group of nearly 20 moderates from both parties—more Democrats than Republicans—have been negotiating in hopes of cutting as much as $100 billion from Obama's plan, which has ballooned to $937 billion on the Senate floor, with further add-ons possible during a long day of votes Friday.
Their efforts came as new government figures showed recession-battered employers eliminated 598,000 jobs in January, the most since the end of 1974. The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent.
- Final Stimulus Bill May Look Leaner In The End
Obama said he hoped Congress members would react to "the single worst month of job loss in 35 years." "I hope they share my sense of urgency and draw the same unmistakable conclusion: The situation could not be more serious," Obama said Friday.
He acknowledged the $900-billion-plus plan was not perfect and pledged to work with lawmakers to refine the measure, which he called "absolutely necessary." "But broadly speaking, the package is the right size," Obama said.