White House Chides Cantor for Opposing Jobs Package

The White House rebuked House Republican Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday for saying the president's $447 billion jobs bill is dead on arrival in his chamber.

Ahead of a visit by President Obama to Eastfield Community College in Mesquite, Texas -- where he will give a speech on his American Jobs Act -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney read an excerpt from the address in which the president chides Cantor for his opposition to the bill.

"Eric Cantor said that right now he won't even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives," Carney said, reading from the address. "Well I want him to come down here to Dallas and explain what is it in this jobs bill does he not believe in. ... Tell small business owners and workers in this community why you'd rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle class. And if you won't do that, then at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so the entire country knows exactly where every member of Congress stands."

But Cantor's office said in a statement that the House GOP leader has "given his word" that the House will pass "portions" of the jobs bill over the next month.

"President Obama needs to understand that his 'my way or the highway' approach simply isn't going to work in the House or the Democratic Senate, especially in light of his abysmal record on jobs," Cantor's office said.

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Speaking Monday, Cantor told reporters that the GOP is ready to "work together" on parts of the president's proposal, but Republicans won't stand for taking up the bill as a take-it-or-leave-it deal. He said the bill, as a package, is dead.

"Now, the president continues to say, pass my bill in its entirety. As I have said from the outset, the all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable," Cantor said.

The GOP leader said the House would pull out and act on a proposal to end a requirement that the government withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors. He also said the House would act on the three free-trade agreements the White House sent to Congress for Colombia, Panama and South Korea -- a long-delayed set of measures the president has highlighted in prior jobs speeches, though he did not send them to Congress until this week.

But Obama is hammering the message that he's dealing with an intransigent House of Representatives.

"I have done everything I can to try to get the Republican Party to work with me to deal with what is the biggest crisis of our lifetimes," Obama said in an interview with ABC News on Monday. "And each time, all we've gotten from them is, 'No.'"

The president was headed to Texas on Tuesday to visit Eastfield Community College and tour the campus' Children's Laboratory School before delivering remarks urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.

The White House says the legislation will keep 280,000 teachers in the classroom, add tens of thousands more and pay for modernization of at least 35,000 public schools buildings.

On Monday, Obama urged Congress to pass the bill by the end of the month. Speaking to ABC News, Obama acknowledged that he doesn't think Americans are better off today than they were four years ago, but said his administration has made "steady progress" to stabilize the economy even if unemployment is still way too high. He added that the American people are in favor of his proposals.

"When you tick down which approach the American people generally prefer, they'll say mine. Now, what they'll say is, he hasn't been able to get it through Congress. And, you know, I'm the first one to acknowledge that the relations between myself and the Republican Congress have not been good over the last several months, but it's not for a lack of effort," he said. "It has to do with the fact that, you know, they've made a decision to follow what is a pretty extreme approach to governance."

Cantor, R-Va., said Tuesday that Republicans agree with the president's comment that people aren't better off today than four years ago.

"We feel the same way," he said.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, ahead of Obama's visit to his state, urged him to veer away from "failed stimulus" policies as he tries to rev up the economy. "Rather than lecturing Texans on how to create jobs, the president should learn from the Texas experience," he said in a statement, referring to the state's recent success creating jobs.

Cantor said the prospect of passing the jobs bill in its entirety, though, is just not feasible, in part because of the problems in the president's own party.

"I think from a purely practical standpoint, the president's got some whipping to do on his own side of the aisle," Cantor said.

Not all Democrats are clamoring for the bill the way they supported the stimulus after Obama took office in early 2009. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., an Obama ally, said last week that the Senate doesn't yet have the votes to pass it.

Furthermore, after delivering an expected speech on the jobs bill in Texas Tuesday afternoon, the president plans to attend fundraisers in St. Louis, but one of Obama's top 2008 supporters won't be there. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, considered vulnerable in the 2012 election, told The Hill newspaper through an aide that she had a scheduling conflict Tuesday and will not join the president in her home state.