Published September 13, 2011
President Obama took his $447 billion jobs plan on the campaign trail Tuesday, stepping up pressure on Congress to pass it despite growing Republican concerns that the president is relying on tax hikes to pay for it.
Speaking outside a school in Columbus, Ohio, the president cast the proposal before Congress as a choice between protecting the wealthy and putting teachers back to work, between protecting oil and gas companies and freeing up money for school construction.
The rhetoric was reminiscent of that used during the recent debt-ceiling debate. Obama, who was unable to secure tax increases as part of that debate over the summer, on Tuesday said making the well-off pay their "fair share" is critical in order to fund his latest bill which includes a mix of infrastructure spending, unemployment aid and middle-class tax breaks.
"There is work to be done. There are workers ready to do it. So let's tell Congress -- pass this bill," Obama said. The enthusiastic crowd chanted back, "pass this bill."
But GOP leaders, who have expressed an interest in working with the president on jobs, raised concern that the proposal unveiled Monday would not fly in part because of the way it's funded.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a "campaign proposal." While noting some areas of agreement, he said: "I think this proposal is really not credible."
"When you look at what we saw in the president's (bill) yesterday, we see permanent tax increases put into effect in order to pay for temporary spending. I just don't think that's really going to help our economy the way it could," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday.
The president was returning to familiar territory Tuesday. It's his third visit to Ohio this year, and his 15th as president to the critical electoral battleground.
The idea was to promote $25 billion in school modernization and infrastructure spending that's part of the jobs bill. Despite the clamoring for fresh action on job creation, Obama's bill is no shoo-in.
The bulk of the payment for his bill comes from nearly $400 billion from limiting the deductions on charitable contributions and other items that wealthy people can take. There's also $40 billion from closing oil and gas loopholes, $18 billion from hiking taxes on certain income made by fund managers, and $3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
The jobs package would offer tax cuts for workers and employers by reducing the Social Security payroll tax. Spending elements include more money to hire teachers, rebuild schools and pay unemployment benefits. There are also tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.
Obama's top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said Tuesday that the White House wants Congress to act on the entire bill rather than approaching it piecemeal. "We're not in a negotiation to break up the package," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It's not an a la carte menu."
The White House, which has gotten burned in the past by making overly optimistic job-creation predictions, has avoided estimating how many jobs the package would create. But in an interview Monday on NBC News, Obama embraced an estimate from an outside economist, Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, and said the bill "could mean an additional 2 million jobs."
For Obama, some progress on the economy has become a political imperative as he approaches his re-election campaign with the economy stalled, unemployment at 9.1 percent and polls showing the public unhappy with his stewardship of the issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.