Published December 23, 2015
President Obama called for Congress to "get on board" with more infrastructure spending and a new round of middle-class tax cuts Monday, as he delivered a campaign-style speech that served as a warm-up to a vital jobs address later this week.
Interrupted repeatedly by chants of "four more years," the president marked Labor Day in Detroit at a rally with the nation's top labor leaders. He used the address to underscore his alliance with the labor movement -- at a time when cracks are starting to show -- and preview some of the proposals he'll outline during a speech Thursday before a joint session of Congress.
Obama effectively dared Republicans to oppose what he described as the "new way forward" for America. He said the upcoming session would reveal whether there are "straight-shooters" in Congress and whether Republicans will put "country before party."
"Show us what you got," he said, in a message aimed at GOP lawmakers. "No more manufactured crises, no more games."
The president said he didn't want to spill all the details of his upcoming address, but highlighted a few portions. Foremost, the president called for new investment in roads and bridges.
"There is work to be done, and there are workers ready to do it," Obama said. "Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board. Let's put America back to work."
He also called for an extension of the payroll tax cut he won from Congress nearly a year ago, as well as the approval of several trade deals. He said the proposals should achieve bipartisan support. "Folks got to get together, but we're not going to wait for 'em," Obama warned.
Republicans, though, are skeptical of the speech. They have urged Obama to avoid stimulus bill-style measures -- such as increased infrastructure spending -- and instead focus on cutting regulations and easing the tax burden.
The president's appearance Monday follows last Friday's dismal jobs report, which showed that employers added no jobs in August. The disappointing report sparked new fears of a second recession and injected fresh urgency into efforts by Obama to help get millions of unemployed people back into the labor market -- and help improve his chances of getting re-elected.
The unemployment report gave Obama's Republican critics, including those who want to challenge him in next year's presidential election, fresh ammunition to pound him with.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday dubbed Obama "president zero" in light of the jobs report. He said the president has spent too much time giving speeches and campaigning.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the jobs report disappointing, unacceptable and "further proof that President Obama has failed." Romney is scheduled to outline his own job-creation plan in a Tuesday speech in the battleground state of Nevada.
The president on Monday also stressed his commitment to the labor movement, saying their cause was at the "core" of why he ran for president. He touted his efforts pushing a financial industry regulatory bill and propping up the auto industry and millions of jobs by providing federal bailouts in 2009 for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC. The AFL-CIO rally was being held in a GM parking lot.
As Republicans at the state level chip away at collective-bargaining powers, Obama vowed to stand up for collective bargaining "as long as I'm in the White House."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.