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Obama praises, then presses Congress

February 17, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • President Obama speaks at Boeing's 787 airplane assembly facility in Everett, Wash.
President Obama speaks at Boeing's 787 airplane assembly facility… (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times/MCT )

Reporting from Everett, Wash. — If lawmakers thought passing a tax cut deal would give them a reprieve from the president’s Congress bashing, they were sorely mistaken.

Speaking at a Boeing factory in Everett, Wash., President Obama gave Congress a backhanded compliment shortly after lawmakers passed a yearlong extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance benefits and other measures the president has called key pieces of his jobs legislation.

“This is a big deal,” Obama told a group of Boeing workers shortly after the plan was passed. “And I want to thank members of Congress for listening to the voices of the American people. It is amazing what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing instead of just playing politics. This was a good example, and Congress should take pride in it.”

The remark was typical for a president who is unabashedly running against an unpopular Congress, and on Friday, as in other similar remarks, Obama made no distinction between the Republican-led House and the Senate, which is controlled not only by the president’s party, but led by a close ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Obama moved swiftly from the payroll tax cut to the next item on his to-do list for Capitol Hill: changes to the corporate tax code that he argues will boost American manufacturing. Obama wants to eliminate tax breaks that he says reward companies for moving jobs overseas, and has proposed tax breaks for companies willing to move jobs back to the U.S.

“So, my message to Congress is, what are we waiting for?” Obama said.

The president made the remarks from the floor of the cavernous Boeing production plant in Everett, with a gleaming new Boeing 787 Dreamliner behind him. The made-for-cameras speech was aimed at highlighting both the company’s success and the president’s new focus on reviving manufacturing.

Although Boeing has expanded production of its commercial airliners, it has recently announced cutbacks. In January, it said it would close a historic facility in Wichita, Kan., where the company has built and modified military aircraft since 1920.

Boeing was also at the center of a bitter and politically charged dispute with the National Labor Relations Board. The board had accused the company of retaliating against union employees in Seattle by putting a nonunion production line in Charleston. The complaint was dropped after the union and Boeing worked out their differences.

That episode was unrelated to the president’s visit, the company said. 

“There is no connection to the NLRB's dropped complaint and today's visit by the president,” said Boeing spokesman Sean McCormack.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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