(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )
President Obama prodded Congress to act on key elements of his economic agenda on Monday, calling on lawmakers to publicly to consider his jobs package by month's end as aides delivered several free-trade agreements for approval.
Obama bemoaned the delay on his jobs act but did not remark on the long wait for the South Korea, Colombia and Panama trade deals, held up in part by his administration.
"It's been several weeks now since I sent up the American Jobs Act," Obama told reporters shortly before a morning Cabinet meeting. "And as I've been saying on the road, I want it back. I'm ready to sign it. And so my expectation is that now that we're in the month of October, that we will schedule a vote before the end of this month.”
House Republicans have said they will consider the tax cuts in Obama's jobs plan as well as the free-trade agreements. The White House had been holding back on the trade deals until the Senate approved a measure to train workers displaced by foreign competition. That approval came last month.
Still, the day's events cast Obama in an increasingly familiar position, talking about how his plans would help the economy if only Congress would work with him.
Since releasing his $447-billion jobs plan on Sept. 8, Obama has mounted a full-scale effort to pass it into law. He has touted the package in visits to states represented by Republican leaders in hopes of creating grassroots pressure that the GOP cannot ignore.
Republicans, not wanting to seem obstructionist when it comes to reviving the sluggish economy, have signaled a willingness to strike a compromise.
"Putting Americans back to work is our No. 1 priority, and we're reviewing the president's proposal and hope he will work with us to find common ground to support job creation," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "His proposed tax increases on job creators and capital investment, however, face bipartisan opposition in the House and the Democrat-run Senate."
At this point, the bill's prospects are uncertain.
"Until at least seven [Senate] Republicans decide to join Democrats in addressing the No. 1 issue facing America, we are subject to a filibuster," said Max Gleischman, a spokesman for Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).
In the Senate, 60 votes are required to stave off a filibuster blocking passage of the bill.
"This will take bipartisan action and until we have bipartisan support, we don't have 60 votes. It's just math," Gleischman added.
Yet the Democratic Party doesn't seem united in its support of the bill, adding a layer of complication to Obama's efforts to curb an unemployment rate that threatens to derail his reelection bid.
Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), for example, has questioned the president's basic strategy, warning that sweeping legislation may not be palatable to lawmakers of either party.
Meanwhile, the free-trade deals have broad bipartisan support. Obama has highlighted them as a key part of his economic plan, arguing that they will help put more Americans to work.
The deals have been caught in delays for months, as Democrats pushed for the trade assistance package that many Republicans don't support.
The measure hasn't yet passed the House, though Boehner has said he would take it up along with the trade agreements.
In the afternoon ABC interview, Obama suggested that the free-trade deals are important for the economy but that Republicans should also consider the benefits of his jobs act.
"I'm glad that's an area of bipartisan agreement," Obama said of the trade deals. "But it's not enough by itself. There's more that we can do."
Republicans swiftly promised to act on the trade bills. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he'd introduce them tonight, and looked forward "to passing them through the Senate in short order."