President Obama will introduce what the White House calls the American Jobs Act in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, a package of ideas the administration says should attract Republican support and would boost the ailing economy.
That plan is expected to be a mix of tax credits and targeted spending increases for school renovation and job training amounting to about $300 billion. Obama’s top aides, in a series of television appearances Thursday morning, challenged Republicans to act quickly on the ideas.
“It’s time for Congress, after a five-week vacation, to come back and do something and not just say no to everything that gets proposed in this town,” White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on CBS’ “Early Show.”
Responding to criticism from Republicans, including some of the candidates who debated in Simi Valley on Wednesday, Daley said the president’s plan would be specific, would be paid for, and, “if enacted, will create jobs and will cause economic growth.”
“There’s no reason not to do them,” he said in another interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “They will create jobs. They’ll get teachers back to work, first responders back to work, construction workers. It will get money into the small businesses, and the American people will see a tax cut with a payroll extension.”
The president’s speech is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern time, his second address to both chambers of Congress in addition to his annual State of the Union message. The last was two years ago this month, when he pushed for his healthcare reform plan.
At the time, Democrats controlled both chambers and had just achieved a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate. Now Republicans have a sizable advantage in the House and even in a slim minority have stymied Democratic initiatives in the Senate.
The administration, therefore, is pushing the president’s plan as one with bipartisan appeal. If Congress rejects it, some of Obama’s aides believe it could move the political needle in their direction. A defeated plan, they hope, could become a political trap for Republicans, allowing Obama to portray the GOP as so intent on foiling the White House that they would sabotage economic progress.
“What we saw over the summer, because of the intransigence among House Republicans, was that they were willing to put the American economy in grave danger in order to score political and ideological points,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” referring to the debt-limit debate. “That was averted at the last minute, but the harm was done in terms of consumer confidence and business confidence. We can’t have any more of that.”
But it’s already getting a cool reception from the GOP.
“By all accounts, 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 overly partisan, of not doing what’s needed in this moment of crisis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. “This isn’t a jobs plan. It’s a reelection plan.”
Obama’s speech is designed to finish in time for the opening game of the National Football League season. There will be no formal Republican response, but Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has announced she will hold an 8:30 p.m. news conference — just as the New Orleans Saints-Green Bay Packers game is set to kick off.
The Senate will also vote on McConnell’s debt disapproval resolution after Obama’s speech, a procedural move that is called for in the debt-ceiling compromise enacted last month.