President Obama urged Congress on Thursday night to “stop the political circus and actually do something” by approving a $447 billion mix of tax cuts and spending that he called vital to put people back to work. The package was larger than expected but the president pledged it would not add to an already historic deficit.
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Addressing a Congress partially controlled by Republicans highly skeptical of much of his program, and a nation weary of waiting for recovery, Obama did not say how many jobs would be created if lawmakers were to pass all elements of his plan. But he cast speedy congressional action as critical to injecting jobs into what has thus far been a jobless recovery.
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"This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief for small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle-class," Obama told lawmakers. "And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: the American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for."
Obama coupled his pleas for action with a call to the 12-member super committee set up by last month’s debt deal to come up with additional spending cuts to pay for the measures in his plan that includes $253 billion in tax cuts and $194 billion in spending.
The tax cuts include $175 billion for an extension of last year’s reduction in the employee payroll tax; $65 billion to cut employer payroll taxes in half and $5 billion for a bonus payroll tax cut for new hires. Under his proposal, taxes would be halved on the first $5 million in wages, which the White House said would benefit 98 percent of all businesses.
The new spending would include tax credits for companies hiring veterans, aid to state and local governments to prevent the layoffs of police, firefighters and up to 280,000 teachers, the modernization of 35,000 public schools, and a $10 billion infrastructure bank to help modernize roads, bridges, railroads and airports.
The White House insisted that most of the elements of the package--which may be presented as legislation as soon as Friday--have previously been supported by many Republicans and hence are bipartisan. The GOP congressional leadership, however, complained even before Obama spoke that they had not been consulted prior to the speech, which many of them saw as designed primarily to save one job – the president’s.
Marc Ambinder contributed