White House aide: Time for Congress to act on jobs

By Ben Feller

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 8 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2011 file photo, some of an estimated 4,000 people wait to enter a job fair called the "For The People Jobs Initiative," where job seekers met employers, job counselors, skills trainers and others, at Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles. Congress must abandon its politically driven refusal to work with President Barack Obama and take action on his job proposals because Americans are demanding help, a top White House aide said Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.

Reed Saxon, File, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress must abandon its politically driven refusal to work with President Barack Obama and take action on his job proposals because Americans are demanding help, a top White House aide said Thursday.

Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, used a trio of morning TV appearances to prod Republicans into action hours before Obama delivers an address on jobs to a rare joint session of Congress. Obama's speech comes amid persistent unemployment exceeding 9 percent, a report that employers stopped creating new jobs last month, and pressure from next year's presidential and congressional elections.

Daley declined to provide details of the president's jobs proposal, saying only that it would help teachers, construction workers, first responders and small businesses, and that many of the ideas have been supported by Republicans in the past.

"The only reason some of these people may not support it now is because of the politics that's going on, which is again unfortunate for the American people," Daley said.

He said the jobs programs would be paid for without borrowed money, and hinted that some of the funds would come from higher taxes on wealthier Americans. They "ought to pay a little more," Daley said.

The package, Daley said, is "a way to help people. That's what the president is committed to do, if the Congress will act."

Daley acknowledged that the economy has performed worse than expected when Obama entered the White House in 2009.

"That's not an excuse for anyone. That's not an excuse for Congress. It's time for action," Daley said. He spoke on CBS' "Early Show," NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America."

Obama's American Job Act will be formally sent to Congress next week, a White House official said.

In his speech Thursday, Obama is likely to offer at least a $300 billion package of ideas that would affect people in their daily lives — tax relief, unemployment insurance, spending to support construction jobs, aid to states to keep people in their jobs. Businesses would get their own tax breaks. And he will promise a long-term plan to pay for it all.

Yet all of it ultimately will depend on a Republican-controlled House that has a different economic approach and no political incentive to help a Democrat seeking a second term.

So, however cooperative his tone, Obama's goal is also to put Republicans on the spot to act — in their face, and in their chamber. Obama is expected to speak for up to 45 minutes, beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.

Before Obama even said a word, political and economic reality raised two questions: Will any of his ideas get approved, and will they actually work?

When asked about some of the ideas Obama is expected to discuss, majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents were all skeptical that the proposals would do a lot to create jobs, a Pew Research Center poll out Wednesday found. A series of new polls by major news organizations finds that the mood is downright dismal about the direction of the country, with Obama's standing and approval on the economy at or near the lowest levels of his presidency.

Yet voters are holding all leaders accountable, supporting the White House's point that Congress is under pressure to act, too. An Associated Press-GfK poll found that more people assign chief blame for the economy to former President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans and Democrats than to Obama.

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