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On Day 2 of bus trip, Obama tells Congress to 'get in the game'

August 16, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • Demonstrators outside Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, on Tuesday as President Obama arrived for a forum on the rural economy.
Demonstrators outside Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa,… (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Peosta, Iowa — A day after pledging to send Congress a job creation package next month and daring Republicans to block it, President Obama provided little insight Tuesday into what form that plan might take.

Instead, on the second day of his bus tour of the upper Midwest, his remarks to a gathering of small-business owners, community leaders, and rural development experts at a small college here, the president largely outlined the same blueprint for boosting the economy as he had in stops the day before, proposals as diverse as extending a payroll tax cut, spending money to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, and ratifying pending trade agreements.

And he continued to suggest that Republicans in Congress are all that stand in the way of economic growth.

“We could do even more if Congress is willing to get in the game,” Obama said. “There are bipartisan ideas — common-sense ideas — that have traditionally been supported by Democrats and Republicans that will put more money in your pockets, that will put our people to work, that will allow us to deal with the legacy of debt that hangs over our economy.”

But the question remains whether there will be more to the president’s plan that he has detailed in public — and whether he will lay down a gauntlet by formally submitting it to Congress, a tactic in the past the White House has resisted.

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t comment on whether the president was considering other measures beyond the ones he has stated on the tour, or whether the package would come in the form of legislation.

Carney, however, reiterated the president’s threat that if Congress failed to act, Obama would not hesitate to leverage that failure politically.

“If they don’t do it,” Carney said, “he will take his arguments to the American people.”

In a statement Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans were waiting to act on pending trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, but he complained that the White House hasn't sent them to the Hill.

“At a time when millions of Americans are out of work and businesses are looking for opportunities to hire, we must do everything we can to create an environment where jobs can come back,” McConnell said. “So it is my hope that the president, who continues to refuse to send these agreements to Congress while simultaneously calling for Congress to act, will finally resolve this contradiction by sending the agreements immediately.”

Obama came to Peosta to highlight White House initiatives to help rural businesses. Earlier in the day, he had breakfast with small-business leaders in Guttenberg, Iowa, the U.S. Secret Service’s new massive, black, almost translucent bus pulling into the small hamlet beside the Mississippi River, trailed by a lengthy motorcade.

Wednesday, he’ll resume town halls in two small towns in his home state of Illinois. Adding some intrigue to his three-day tour, those hamlets may lie in districts that sent two "tea party"-backed freshman Republicans to the House last fall.

Obama had a combative encounter with one tea-party activist in Decorah, Iowa, after his town hall event there Monday evening, leaving open the possibility that such a confrontation could happen again.

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