Obama to Congress: 'Pass this jobs bill'

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 9 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. Watching are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.

Kevin Lamarque, POOL, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Wasting no time, President Barack Obama is pitching to the public his $447 billion jobs program of tax cuts and new spending after bluntly telling Congress to "stop the political circus" and fix the economy.

But that doesn't mean Republicans are buying.

"The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday after Obama, in a nationally televised address to Congress, laid out an agenda that leaned heavily on payroll tax cuts to put money into the economy. "We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well.

"It's my hope that we can work together," Boehner added.

While noncommittal, it was one of the more generous reactions from Republicans to a speech from a Democratic president in political trouble seeking bipartisanship to repair a long-ailing economy.

"You should pass it right away," the president told lawmakers more than once and pledged to campaign for its enactment "in every corner of this country." To that end, Obama set his first trip for Friday to Richmond, Va., a city represented by the No. 2 Republican in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

There were other hints that Obama intends to carry the fight to Republicans, including his statement that "there's a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky" — the states that sent Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to Congress.

In a statement issued after the speech, McConnell said, "For months, we've been engaged in a national debate about spending and debt, about the need to get our nation's fiscal house in order, about the need to rein in government. ... Yet here we are, tonight, being asked by this same president to support even more government spending with the assurance that he'll figure out a way to pay for it later."

Obama offered no estimate of the number of jobs his plan would create. He said the tax cuts he is recommending would mean $1,500 a year for the typical working family and $80,000 for businesses with 50 employees of average pay. Unemployment has been stuck at 9.1 percent for two consecutive months and not even the administration is projecting significant improvement anytime soon.

With a nod to deficit hawks — independent voters among them — Obama also said he would outline legislation in coming days to offset the bill's $447 billion price tag so it wouldn't add to federal deficits.

While the bill's $253 billion in tax cuts could well draw support from Republicans, an additional $194 billion in new spending likely will prove a harder sell. The president asked for the money to fund highway and other construction projects, modernize schools, stabilize blighted neighborhoods and help states hire teachers and first responders.

"The president's plan is nothing new," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.

Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was "concerned that what we've heard from President Obama this evening is an echo of his administration's unsuccessful strategy of the last few years, which has resulted in unsustainable spending that has skyrocketed the budget deficit and pushed our nation further into fiscal crisis."

"Rather than offer a new road map for recovery and reform, he merely dusted off a tired agenda of old ideas wrapped in freshly partisan rhetoric," said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate and a member of the special committee just embarking on talks to cut future deficits by $1.2 trillion or more.

The reaction of Democrats in Congress was supportive of the president but in terms more partisan than he had used.

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