President Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden at left, is surrounded by… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington — Holding up a copy of his jobs bill,President Obama on Monday called on Congress to pass it “immediately’’ and implored the public to put pressure on lawmakers, using a Rose Garden appearance to build grassroots support for his $447-billion jobs plan.
Obama said he would send his bill to Congress later Monday, setting in motion a contentious debate as Republican lawmakers wary of handing Obama any sort of election-season victory press ahead with alternatives that rely more on cutting taxes and lifting regulatory burdens on business.
Obama spoke against a backdrop of teachers, construction workers, veterans and police officers -- a visual tableau meant to reinforce his point that partisan politics should not intrude on efforts to revive the slumping economy.
“This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country,’’ the president said. “This is a bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. This is a bill based on ideas from both Democrats andRepublicans. And this is a bill that Congress needs to pass.
“No games, no politics, no delays,’’ he said.
Since Obama unveiled his jobs plan last Thursday, Republicans have challenged him to actually send a bill to Capitol Hill so that they can hold hearings and send it to auditors for independent analysis of the costs.
Obama sought to answer that criticism Monday, waving a hard copy of the bill for all to see. For the White House, that is a break from past practice. Obama’s habit has been to tout general policy proposals and let Congress take the lead in crafting legislation and hashing out specifics. It appears Obama wants to play a more active role in the debate over his jobs package, a potential make-or-break moment for a presidency weakened by an unemployment rate topping 9% and a pervasive sentiment that conditions may well get worse.
In a statement after Obama’s speech, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said: “While we have a different vision for what is needed to support job creation in our country, we appreciate the president’s pledge to transmit legislation to Congress and will immediately request that it be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Once we receive CBO’s analysis, we can begin the important work of reviewing the various elements of his proposal.’’
Following a summer of toxic negotiations over the nation’s debt ceiling -- which triggered an unprecedented downgrade in America’s credit rating -- Boehner suggested he was amenable to compromise.
“It is my hope that we will be able to work together to put in place the best ideas of both parties and help put Americans back to work,’’ Boehner said. “In the meantime, the House will continue its work to remove government barriers to private-sector job creation, and we will continue to call on our colleagues in the Democratic-led Senate to take action on the numerous job creation bills passed by the House that await consideration in their chamber.”
Obama is campaigning hard for passage of the jobs plan. He is calling for tax cuts to spur hiring; expansion of the payroll tax cut that was approved last December; billions in spending for road, bridge and school construction; and extension of unemployment benefits, among other measures.
For the foreseeable future, the White House wants job creation to be the president’s overriding focus. Aides have privately put out word they want nothing to step on Obama’s jobs message.
Last Friday, Obama dropped into the district represented by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to call for swift passage of his plan. This week, he'll take his road show to major cities in two key swing states: Ohio on Tuesday and North Carolina on Wednesday.
Obama hopes to use the full power of the bully pulpit to pressure Republicans into supporting the jobs plan.
He wants voters to call and email their congressional representatives. Even more exotic forms of communication will do, Obama said.
“So I want you to pick up the phone, send an email, use one of those airplane skywriters, dust off the fax machine -- or you could just, like, write a letter. So long as you get the message to Congress: Send me the American Jobs Act so I can sign it into law.
“Let’s get something done.’’