CINCINNATI — Employing in-your-face politics, President Barack Obama sold his jobs plan Thursday from the turf of the top Republicans on Capitol Hill, combatively calling them out by name to demand action.
Obama stood in front of an aging bridge that links House Speaker John Boehner's home state of Ohio with Kentucky, home to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to call for passage of his $447 billion package in tax cuts, jobless aid and public works projects.
"Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge," Obama said. "Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work. Pass this jobs bill right away."
It amounted to one of Obama's most direct and defiant challenges to leaders the opposition party on their own territory. It was a shift from his outreach to Boehner this summer, when the two men tried to work out a deal that would extend the nation's borrowing authority and cut long-term deficits as well.
Then, the president took Boehner golfing. Now, he's taking him to task.
"Part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are the two most powerful Republicans in government," he said. "They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help us pass it."
Obama said his legislation would put construction workers back to work around the country on projects like the Brent Spence Bridge, but the White House gladly conceded that the choice of the aging span south of Cincinnati was symbolic. The bridge is scheduled to be repaired anyway starting in 2015, although White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president's job bill could speed up that timeline.
McConnell and Boehner, both of whom have supported the bridge project, dismissed the visit as a ploy.
"I would suggest, Mr. President, that you think about ways to actually help the people of Kentucky and Ohio, instead of how you can use their roads and bridges as a backdrop for making a political point," McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. "If you really want to help our state, then come back to Washington and work with Republicans on legislation that will actually do something to revive our economy and create jobs. And forget the political theater."
Said Boehner: "I am pleased the president is bringing attention to this much-needed project. But you know now is not the time for the president to go into campaign mode."