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Congressional Reaction Mixed to Obama Economic Proposals

President Barack Obama delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington. Watching are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, September 8, 2011
President Barack Obama delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington. Watching are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, September 8, 2011

Congressional reaction has been mixed to President Barack Obama's plan to give a jolt to the stalled U.S. economy and create jobs.  Democrats reacted enthusiastically to the president's proposals to rebuild old and decaying bridges and highways and to help struggling homeowners refinance their mortgages.  Republicans say they may be able to work with the president on some aspects of the plan, but many expressed doubt that the whole package will be approved.  

The president's speech laying out his "American Jobs Act" came as opinion polls show most Americans have lost faith in politicians' ability to do anything to bring down the nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate.

During the speech to a joint session of Congress, Democratic lawmakers stood up and applauded heartily when the president talked about providing funding to local governments so that teachers do not lose their jobs, and when he talked about strengthening workers' collective bargaining rights.

Republicans rarely rose to their feet, but they stood up and cheered when Obama called on Congress to approve trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea - a moment when most Democrats remained seated and stonefaced.

Some Democrats had called before the speech for the president to "be bold" and to stop focusing on reaching out to Republicans. Most Democrats seemed happy with the $447 billion plan that includes extending the payroll tax for workers and extending unemployment benefits.

Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri echoed the sentiments of many when he said he liked the fiery tone of President Obama's address.

"Clearly the people around the country are excited about something like this, and frankly the tone the president took tonight.  I mean, he stood up and was very tough about where he was wanting to take the country, and I think a lot of people wanted to see that," Cleaver said.

Over and over again during the speech, President Obama challenged Congress to pass the jobs plan now, saying most Americans cannot wait 14 months until the 2012 elections.  Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland agreed.

"I also liked his insistence and his sense of urgency.  People are hurting.  They want results, and they want results now," Mikulski said.

The response from Republicans was more subdued.  Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said the plan merits consideration, and urged to the president to also carefully consider alternative ideas proposed by Republicans.  

Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California said the basic ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans are still there.

"I am perfectly willing to support the president in tax reform, but ultimately government reduction was something he basically said 'No way,' that the kinds of cuts that we are envisioning that get government off people's backs he is only giving lip service to," Issa said.

Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa said he did not believe the whole bill would pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"I am really doubtful if there is going to be a movement in this House to pick up a package.  There might be a couple of things that we could try to lift out of it.  I am not sure what they are at this point," King said.

President Obama said he would send the American Jobs Act to Congress next week, and vowed to travel to "every corner" of the country to take his case to the American people.

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