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Obama has been 'relentlessly focused' on jobs, Geithner says

October 26, 2011 |  8:28 am

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner strongly defended President Obama from criticism that he was distracted from dealing with the economy in 2009 as he tried to pass healthcare reform.

“Absolutely not," Geithner told CBS News' Norah O'Donnell when asked if Obama had taken "his eye off the ball on jobs.''

"He was relentlessly focused on it," Geithner said in the interview that aired Tuesday night. "And in fact he was doing things that were deeply difficult politically for him.”

Geithner cited the $825-billion stimulus package passed in early 2009, along with the government rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, as well as enactment of financial reform as proof Obama was focused on reducing unemployment.

Top administration officials have joined with Obama this fall in pushing Congress to pass his $447-billion jobs package. But strong Republican opposition has stalled the legislation, with Obama now looking to pass some components separately.

Geithner warned that failure to pass the legislation would keep unemployment from dropping below its current 9.1% by next year's elections.

"If they act on these proposals, then growth will be stronger and unemployment will be lower and you'll see more Americans back to work," he said. "If they don’t act, then we risk a weaker economy and higher unemployment."

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-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner during a visit to a UPS facility in Louisville, Kent., in September. Credit: Associated Press.

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