President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass elements of his jobs proposal and attacked Republican alternatives, saying his plan was the “real Americans Jobs Act.”
After Republicans blocked his $447 billion jobs plan in the Senate, Obama is seeking to tap into populist anger in his campaign to get lawmakers to pass portions of the proposal, including $35 billion in aid to states to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters and $105 billion in spending on infrastructure.
The Republican plan would “gut regulations” and “let Wall Street do whatever it wants,” Obama said in Fletcher, North Carolina, where he started a three-day bus tour that also will take him to Virginia. Obama won both Republican-leaning states in 2008 and seeks to hold both in next year’s election.
“I need you to give Congress a piece of your mind,” he said. “Tell your elected leaders to do the right thing.”
Six weeks after Obama unveiled his plan and with voters increasingly anxious about the direction of the country, the president is using his bus tour to blame Republicans for Congress’s failure to enact his package of tax cuts and spending measures that the White House says would spur growth and lower the 9.1 percent unemployment rate.
Aid to States
Senate Democratic leaders may seek to force a vote this week on the first piece of Obama’s jobs bill that the administration wants passed, the $35 billion to help states hire and avoid layoffs of firefighters, police officers and teachers, according to a Senate Democratic aide who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The cost would be offset by a surtax on individuals with annual incomes of $1 million or more, the aide said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, previously proposed a 5.6 percent millionaires tax to raise an estimated $453 billion to pay for Obama’s entire proposal.
Republicans, who have a majority in the House and enough votes in the Senate to block legislation, have rejected raising taxes in order to pay for the plan. They also object to additional spending at a time the nation is struggling with a budget deficit that was $1.3 trillion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. It was the third consecutive year that the shortfall has exceeded $1 trillion.
Obama said that steps to spur hiring should be the top priority for the government.
Pressure on Lawmakers
“If they vote against taking steps that we know will put Americans back to work right now, right now, then they’re not going to have to answer to me,” he said. “They’re going to have to answer to you.”
Republicans are criticizing the president’s trip to states he needs to win in 2012, saying he’s focusing more on politics and not on the economy.
“It’s disappointing the president would rather give more partisan speeches than work with Republicans to find common ground,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “There are things we can do right now to help struggling American families, but it will require more cooperation and less campaigning from the White House.”
The North Carolina Republican Party is responding to Obama’s visit with a “Towbama” campaign that features a tow truck as a prop and an offer to “tow that bus back” to Washington so Obama can work on economic policy, Robin Hayes, the state party chairman, said on a conference call.
Of the $35 billion to states and communities, more than $900 million would help teachers and first responders in North Carolina and would support 13,400 jobs across the state, where the unemployment rate is above the national average at 10.4 percent.
Obama cited the state’s need for federal help with infrastructure projects that would put construction workers back on the job, including runways and taxiways at Asheville Regional Airport, where he spoke. The airport authority is seeking $60 million for renovations. The jobs bill includes $2 billion for airport infrastructure projects.
On the way to his next stop, Obama stopped for lunch in Marion, North Carolina at the Countryside Barbeque restaurant. While the surprise presidential visit generated excitement among diners, it didn’t necessarily win him votes.
‘See Some Action’
“I just want to see some action, I want to see something positive start happening,” said Lisa Hensley, 50, an accountant from the town about 42 miles southwest of the airport.
Hensley, a registered Democrat, said he won’t vote for Obama in 2012 unless something “monumental” happened.
“We need to get the banks loaning again and we need to get manufacturers in small towns,” she said.
Obama narrowly won North Carolina in 2008, by 0.3 percent of the vote, making him the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state in 32 years. An Oct. 6 Public Policy Polling survey shows Obama’s job approval rating in North Carolina virtually unchanged since September with 44 percent approving and 53 percent disapproving.
--With assistance from Margaret Talev, Laura Litvan and Kate Andersen Brower in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Robin Meszoly
To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Fletcher, North Carolina, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Roger Runningen in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org
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