WASHINGTON — Corporate leaders, small business owners and the president of the largest U.S. labor federation will be in the spotlight in Congress on Thursday night as President Barack Obama delivers a high-stakes speech on his plans to boost U.S. employment.
Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of General Electric Co.; Kenneth Chenault, chairman of American Express Co.; Steve Case, a venture capital investor who co-founded American Online, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. union federation will be sitting with first lady Michelle Obama in her box as the president speaks.
Presidents invite guests to the high-profile spot, a favorite target of television cameras, to highlight the initiatives included in major speeches and as evidence that their plans have support.
Obama is to lay out a jobs package worth more than $300 billion on Thursday, staking his re-election hopes on a call for urgent action to revive the economy and challenging Republicans who have consistently opposed his initiatives.
With the U.S. unemployment rate stuck at about 9 percent for months, polls show Americans are worried and frustrated with both the Democratic president and Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, also invited guests to help underscore his party's contention that Obama is responsible for regulations that hurt companies.
Boehner said he invited a dozen private-sector "job creators," who he said were dogged by excessive federal regulations that kill jobs.
Boehner's guests include Spencer Weitman, president of National Cement, which he said suspended construction of a $350 million cement kiln in Alabama due to regulatory obstacles. He also invited Lisa Ingram, chief operating officer of White Castle, a hamburger company that says federal regulations contributed to its closing a plant in New Jersey.
Another guest of Boehner's will be Henry Juszkiewicz, chief executive of the Gibson Guitar Co., whose facilities have been raided by armed federal agents on suspicion that the company is using illegally imported wood from endangered plants.
The other guests in Mrs. Obama's box include small business owners and executives; and Americans who work in infrastructure, have benefited from training programs, are worried about losing their jobs, would benefit from tax cuts or attend schools that need renovating.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also will be sitting in the box.
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