Published Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 | 12:09 p.m.
Updated Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 | 3:42 p.m.
President Barack Obama stopped in Las Vegas today, fundraising and campaigning in a state that helped elect him two years ago but has continued to suffer economically despite his efforts to address the recession.
His visit included a stop at the Bellagio for a fundraiser and a visit to an East Las Vegas neighborhood, one of the many areas hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
The president's visit coincided with his administration's announcement of an expansion of a federal program to aid homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The proposal would expand the program to aid the hardest-hit homeowners.
Despite unveiling that plan today, the president didn’t spend much time discussing it. Instead, he focused on his jobs bill, which is struggling to gain support in Congress.
"We've got huge challenges in places like Nevada, we've got a jobs bill out there that is paid for and addresses those challenges, the question is, why despite all the support, despite all the experts who say this jobs bill couldn't come at a more important time...why have Republicans in Washington said no? They keep voting against it."
Obama was in Las Vegas for just over three hours. Air Force One landed at McCarran International Airport about noon and took off just after 3 p.m.
Upon arriving, Obama was greeted by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.
Goodman's presence appeared to be a conciliatory gesture. Her predecessor and husband, Mayor Oscar Goodman, had been sharply critical of Obama's remarks last year about Las Vegas and the recession (“You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college”).
After a brief conversation the two shook hands with about two dozen people gathered to meet the president.
Goodman said later that she told Obama: "In Nevada, we know you love it here, you come back again and again, but you need to tell the world how wonderful we are." Of Obama's negative comments about Las Vegas, she said: "That's past. I'm new in office even though I'm hooked at the hip with my husband."
He received two standing ovations during remarks to the crowd — one when he discussed ending the war in Iraq and another when he mentioned ending the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.
He also noted the economic troubles in Las Vegas and said he’s is struggling to gather support for his plans to turn around the economy.
"The most urgent challenge that we face right now is to get our economy to grow faster. I know it, the people of Nevada know it, and I think most Americans understand that the problem we face didn't happen over night,” the president said. "What people don't understand though is why some elected officials in Washington don't share the same sense of urgency that people all around the country are.
"Your senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, he's been fighting nonstop to help get the economy going but he's not getting some help from some members of the Nevada delegation, so we need them to get their act together. … The only way we can put 100s of thousands of people back to work right now is with bold actions from Congress.”
Later, the president traveled to a neighborhood near Sahara Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard to deliver remarks on a new program to aid homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. It’s estimated that about 80 percent of Las Vegas homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.
The Associated Press reported today that the proposal to change the 2-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program will help homeowners with little or no equity in their houses refinance by cutting the cost of doing so and removing caps to give deeply underwater borrowers access to the program. The new rules apply to homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages who are current on their payments.
With the president's jobs bill struggling in Congress, the White House is refocusing its efforts on steps Obama can take to address the nation's economic woes without lawmakers' approval. The new push comes with a fresh catchphrase as the White House tries to push Republicans into action: "We can't wait."
It's Obama's latest in a string of slogans aimed at blaming GOP lawmakers for lack of action on the economy.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said that while executive actions are no substitute for Congress passing elements of the jobs bill, the economy requires action now.
"When Congress won't act, this president will," he said.