President Obama stepped up his pressure on Congress on Monday, demanding quick passage of the jobs bill he announced last week and saying it is "a bill that will put people back to work all over the country."
The president reiterated the proposals of the American Jobs Act, which would provide $447 billion in the form of spending and tax cuts, items that the president said have received bipartisan support in the past. It would increase spending on projects such as schools and infrastructure refurbishment, extend payroll-tax holidays, and credit employers who hire the long-term unemployed.
To offset these credits, the administration will recommend a series of “pay-fors” to the super committee charged with cutting the national deficit. Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters later on Monday that increases in taxes for the wealthiest Americans, oil and gas provisions, and changes in corporate jet depreciations will be included in the recommendations.
Should the committee reject the administration’s proposals, it will need to create its own offsets, but the jobs proposal would remain afloat. Separating the jobs and deficit proposals, according to Lew, would keep jobs creation from “deferring to the end of the year” should the deficit proposals stall.
Urgent is the word tagging the jobs bill as it makes its way to the Capitol.
“No games, no politics, no delays,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “I'm sending this bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately.”
The president, flanked by firefighters, teachers, and construction workers, as well as by Vice President Joe Biden, blamed any delays or opposition on partisan politics, accusing some Republicans of opposing Republican ideas just to hurt Democrats in next year’s election.
“We can't afford these political games, not now,” he said.
Despite three years of government-led efforts to jump-start the economy, the unemployment rate remains above 9 percent, and the approval ratings of both the administration and Congress are at record lows.
In sending a bill to Capitol Hill, the White House is changing tactics from previous legislative battles. The president drew criticism during the 2009 fight for a stimulus package, the 2010 debate over health care, and the 2011 showdown over raising the debt ceiling. In each case, the White House was content to have the president draw the broad outlines of what he wanted but let Congress write the bill.
But in the stimulus fight it left Obama with a package with as much pork barrel as stimulus. Administration officials later acknowledged that some of what Congress put in the bill was not as stimulative as the economy needed. And in the recent debate over debt, it led Republicans to repeatedly ask, “Where’s the president’s plan?”—a criticism the White House felt was deeply unfair, given the many details involved in the talks Biden was overseeing.
Now, the president is moving quickly to answer that question. He had a bill to wave before the cameras in the Rose Garden.
On a day when world markets are being rocked by doubts about the European economy, the president cast his bill as a beacon of certainty. “In Europe, in the Middle East, some events may be beyond our control,” he said. “But this is something we can control. Whether or not we pass this bill, whether or not we get this done, that's something that we can control. That's in our hands.”
Republican leaders have hinted that they are willing to consider the bill but expect Obama to negotiate in return.
House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement welcoming the president’s decision to send a bill up quickly.
“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,” Boehner said. “Once we receive CBO’s analysis, we can begin the important work of reviewing the various elements of his proposal.”
Boehner promised “careful examination” of the proposal along with what he called “alternative measures that may more effectively support private-sector job creation.”
“I think there’s a lot of room for commonality, and we can get something done quickly," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on CNN on Friday. Cantor cited the plan’s initiatives benefiting small businesses and putting the unemployed back to work as areas where the parties could move forward, but he raised concerns with the idea of an infrastructure bank and impermanent tax cuts.
Democrats are rallying around the president's plan. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Monday, “President Obama has done his part: soon sending the American Jobs Act to Congress to create jobs, strengthen small businesses, rebuild America, and grow our economy now. We must take up and pass this legislation without further delay.”
This article appears in the September 12, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.