Published September 09, 2011
With one of the most anticipated speeches of his presidency in the rear-view mirror, President Obama now faces what Republicans already have signaled will be an uphill battle getting his jobs plan passed.
Obama outlined the $450 billion plan's mix of tax cuts, tax credits, infrastructure investments and other measures in his speech Thursday night to Congress, urging lawmakers repeatedly to pass it "right away" to help put millions of Americans back to work.
But House Speaker John Boehner offered little more endorsement than that it "merited consideration," while a top Senate Republican, echoing others in his party, dismissed it as more of Obama's "tired agenda."
At stake is an economy sputtering along with an unemployment rate persistently above 9 percent and at risk of falling back into recession.
Obama repeatedly called on lawmakers to pass his plan "right away," saying "there should be nothing controversial" about the American Jobs Act. He said all the proposals are paid for with spending cuts, although he won't detail them until next week.
“Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight," he said. “The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.”
Obama also called on Congress to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy."
Obama sent a note to campaign supporters ahead of his speech, urging them to pressure Congress to pass his plan "or hold them accountable if they do not."
House Speaker John Boehner said "We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well. It's my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation."
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said Obama's plan offered more of the same.
"Faced with the reality of historic unemployment rates and record federal debt, I had hoped that President Obama, by now, would understand that even more government spending doesn't create jobs," he said. "Rather than offer a new roadmap for recovery and reform, he merely dusted off a tired agenda of old ideas wrapped in freshly partisan rhetoric."
The biggest element in Obama's plan calls for increasing and extending a cut in the payroll tax from workers that goes to Social Security, while providing the tax cut to employers, too. For workers, the tax that has been cut from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for this year would fall to 3.1 percent under Obama's plan -- a $175 billion cost. The tax will go back up to 6.2 percent without congressional action by the end of the year.
The president's plan would also spend $25 billion on school infrastructure to modernize at least 35,000 public schools, including spending on computer labs and on emergency repairs. He would spend an additional $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers and support the hiring of thousands more.
Senior administration officials wouldn't say how many jobs the plan would create but noted that it could have an immediate impact.
The idea is to have an effect "within the year," one official said.
Obama's plan strikes the "right balance" and contains the "right mix" of elements to get people back working again, an official said. But the officials added there's no "magic here."
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO who was a guest of Michelle Obama at the speech, called on Congress to pass the bill.
"The plan announced by the president is only the opening bid," he said. "We expect to see more proposals in the next weeks and months to put America back to work."
Obama wanted to convey a deep sense of urgency about the economy in his speech and try to back Republicans into a corner, said top Democrats who spoke to the president about his speech.
But top Republicans wonder why it took nearly three years to convey this urgency. They suspect the timing has more to do with the president now trying to save his own job.
"The president's so-called jobs plan is to try those very same policies again and then accuse anyone who doesn't support them this time around of being political or overtly partisan, of not doing what's needed in this moment of crisis," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said. "This isn't a jobs plan. It's a re-election plan."
A key audience is the all-important independent voters who helped elected the president in 2008 but have been fleeing his camp. One year ago, 40 percent of independents approved of Obama's job performance. Now it's down to 31 percent, according to the latest Fox News poll.
The president is gambling that since Congress has an approval rating of only 10 percent, Republicans will feel election pressure to work with him. But passage of the plan may rest on how the president plans to pay for it, details that the White House said would be released soon.
Fox News' Ed Henry contributed to this report.