President Obama delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint… (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA )
President Obama will call on Congress on Thursday night to act immediately on his American Jobs Act, a set of proposals he says have had both Republican and Democratic support in the past.
After a bruising summer marked by the discordant debt-ceiling negotiations, the president will use his speech to appeal for cooperation, declaring that there is "nothing controversial" about the ideas he's putting forward that should keep lawmakers from advancing it.
"The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we'll meet ours," Obama will say, according to excerpts of his address released by the White House.
"The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy; whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning."
Obama's plan, he will say, will "create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed." It includes a tax break for companies that hire new workers, an extension of the payroll tax holiday to wage earners, and now to small businesses, as well.
"It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services," Obama will say. "You should pass this jobs plan right away."
Obama is to address a rare joint session of Congress at 7 p.m. Eastern time, his second such speech in addition to his annual State of the Union message. The last was two years ago this month, when he pushed for his healthcare reform plan.
At the time, Democrats controlled both chambers and had just achieved a 60-vote super-majority in the Senate. Now Republicans have a sizable advantage in the House and even in a slim minority have stymied Democratic initiatives in the Senate.
The administration, therefore, is pushing the president's plan as one with bipartisan appeal. If Congress rejects it, some of Obama's aides believe it could move the political needle in their direction. A defeated plan, they hope, could become a political trap for Republicans, allowing Obama to portray the GOP as so intent on foiling the White House that they would sabotage economic progress.
"Those of us here tonight cannot solve all of our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference," Obama will say.