President Obama speaks about his jobs plan at Eastfield College in Mesquite,… (Larry Downing, Reuters )
Reporting from Mesquite, Texas, and Washington — As President Obama continued his cross-country quest to build public support for his jobs plan, Republicans pointedly reminded him that the bill remained shy of support on Capitol Hill and Democratic leaders sought ways to pay for it — perhaps with a surtax on millionaires.
House Republicans should vote on his bill in its entirety so Americans can see where every member of Congress stands, Obama said at a Texas rally Tuesday.
In Washington, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Obama's "my way or the highway approach" was impeding the search for common ground.
Several Senate Democrats have indicated discomfort with how the president plans to pay for his $447-billion proposal. In particular, they are wary of raising taxes on individuals earning $200,000 and couples earning $250,000, which would happen if the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expired as scheduled at the end of 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said his caucus was working on alternatives to pay for the $447-billion proposal. A millionaire's surtax is one of the options, according to a Senate aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The surtax came up during a lunch meeting of Senate Democrats, the aide said.
Senate Republicans capitalized on Democrats' division by trying to force an immediate vote on the jobs bill by attaching it to unrelated legislation.
"I agree with the president; I think he's entitled to a vote," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader.
Reid blocked McConnell's effort but offered to debate the jobs bill immediately. That would have required Republicans to agree not to filibuster it. McConnell demurred.
With Obama pushing for a vote "right away," Reid promised to take up the measure before the Senate recess at the end of the month.
"Right away is a relative term," Reid said.
Republican leaders say they are willing to pass portions of Obama's plan in the next month but not the entire proposal, with its tax increases for the wealthy and closure of tax loopholes.
The GOP alternative relies on spending cuts and tax breaks, which supporters contend would make companies more likely to expand and hire.
"If House Republicans sent our plan for America's job creators to the president, would he promise not to veto it in its entirety?" Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said. "Would he travel district to district and explain why he'd block such common-sense ideas to create jobs?"
Obama is responding to the GOP's ideas during his travels, at least in general terms. Those ideas are based on a "you're on your own, good luck" mind-set, he told supporters at a lunch in Texas.
But mostly the president focuses on the controversial parts of his plan, such as spending $30 billion to help rehire laid-off teachers.
In a speech at Eastfield College in Dallas County, Obama put a spotlight on Kim Russell, a social studies teacher who lost her job in May.
"I miss my students," Russell told the crowd, "and I miss my classroom."
The hire-back provision would return Russell to her classroom, Obama said, but Cantor "won't even give it a vote."
"Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas, look Kim Russell in the eye and tell her why she doesn't deserve to be back in the classroom doing what she loves," he said. "If you won't do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so the entire country" can see who supports it and who doesn't.
Lisa Mascaro in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.