U.S. President Barack Obama has begun a tour of two southern states by urging voters to pressure Congress into passing a series of job creation bills that failed to secure congressional approval as a complete package last week.
In a speech to supporters at an airport in Asheville, North Carolina, Obama said Monday that if lawmakers vote against measures that he says will put Americans back to work immediately, those lawmakers will have to answer to the voters.
The U.S. Senate's Republican minority blocked Obama's full jobs package last week, prompting him to call for the provisions in the bill to be passed by lawmakers piece by piece in the coming weeks. Republicans have expressed support for some of those provisions, but complained that the complete $447 billion package contained wasteful spending and job-killing tax increases on wealthy Americans.
Obama is due to spend the next three days on a bus tour of North Carolina and Virginia, two traditionally Republican-leaning states that he won in his 2008 election and hopes to win again in his bid for a second term next year. But, polls show his public approval has declined in both states as the U.S. economic recovery has faltered.
In his address, Obama accused Senate Republicans of saying "no" to putting teachers back to work and refusing to help military veterans to find jobs. He also mocked the Republicans' rival jobs plan that calls for ending his health care reform law and removing environmental and financial regulations that Republicans say discourage job creation.
Obama said the Republican package calls for "dirtier air, dirtier water and less people with health insurance."
The president said he will press Congress to first approve his proposal for $35 billion in aid to state and local governments to help them avoid laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters. He said the next measure that he wants lawmakers to approve is infrastructure spending to improve roads, bridges and airports such as the one in Asheville.
Obama aides say this week's bus tour is about his jobs proposals, not his re-election campaign.
The road trip is Obama's second in the armored bus since he toured the U.S. Midwest in August on a similar campaign to pressure Congress into enacting his economic agenda.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.