President Barack Obama is spending a second day Tuesday campaigning for his $447-billion jobs bill in the Southern states of North Carolina and Virginia. The president’s three-day bus tour is focusing on states that could decide next year’s presidential election.
President Obama stopped at a community college in Jamestown, North Carolina to push his plan, which he says would help reduce the 9.1 percent U.S. jobless rate.
Opposition Republicans in the Senate last week blocked consideration of the entire bill, saying it would waste money, raise taxes and cost jobs.
But the president referred to a recent public opinion poll in which 63 percent of Americans supported the provisions in the bill.
“The majority of the American people think it makes sense for us to put teachers back in the classroom, and construction workers back to work, and tax breaks for small businesses, and tax breaks for folks who are hiring veterans," he said. "But we got a 100 percent ‘no’ from Republicans in the Senate. Now that does not make any sense.”
Republicans are proposing their own jobs plan. Obama said he was willing to consider it, but he mocked the bill’s provisions.
“We are going to gut environmental regulations. We are going to drill more," said Obama."We are going to roll back Wall Street reform. And we are going to repeal health-care reform. Now, that is a plan. But it is not a jobs plan.”
On the Senate floor, the top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said the president’s bus tour represents politics, not leadership.
“It is also no secret that the president of the United States is trying to use this displeasure with Washington for political gain," said McConell. "And I think that is a pretty sad commentary on the state of affairs over at the White House lately.”
But the president said he is still willing to work with Republicans to find solutions to the unemployment problem. Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina suggested Republicans and Democrats should meet to look for a breakthrough.
Earlier in the day, the White House announced Obama will sign on Friday free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, which were part of his jobs plan.
“Just last week, Congress passed, on a bipartisan basis, a trade agreement that will allow us to start selling more goods into Korea," continued Obama, "because we buy an awful lot of Hyundais and Kias, I want them to buy some Fords and Chevys and Chryslers."
South Korea’s National Assembly has not yet approved the agreement that was signed in 2007. Lawmakers in Panama and Colombia have passed their agreements.
Obama won Virginia and North Carolina in the 2008 election, although the two states usually lean Republican. His support has been slipping, and he hopes this bus tour will help him rebound in the polls.
The president’s bus tour received a momentary setback, when thieves stole the truck carrying the podium, presidential seals, and audio equipment used as part of the bus tour. The truck was taken from a hotel parking lot in Richmond, Virginia, and was recovered outside another hotel.