News / USA

Obama to Address Congress on Jobs Plan

President Barack Obama speaks during a Labor Day event at Detroit's Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors,  Sept., 5, 2011
President Barack Obama speaks during a Labor Day event at Detroit's Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, Sept., 5, 2011

Against a backdrop of high unemployment and national anxiety over a weak economy, President Barack Obama will go before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday to propose a major jobs initiative. President Obama will be seeking cooperation from opposition Republicans in a divided Congress who challenge his economic policies.

Several key components of the jobs and economic growth package have been leaked in advance of the president's address.

It is expected to involve $300 billion in tax cuts and new government spending aimed at creating conditions for faster job growth.  Obama will likely urge extending expiring payroll tax cuts, propose infrastructure improvement projects, and take steps to help cash-poor local and state governments.

U.S. unemployment remains stubbornly above 9 percent, threatening Obama's reelection chances next year.  Among the measures to spur hiring, he is expected to urge extending benefits for the unemployed and propose new tax incentives for small businesses.

The president will address the divided Congress that Americans voted for in the 2010 midterm elections, although Obama often makes the point that Americans did not vote for what he calls dysfunctional government.

Obama says he hopes to bring Republicans on board with his plan.  Political analysts see another purpose - to make Congress shoulder more of the political burden for job creation as well as the weight of responsibility if lawmakers fail to act.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says Obama will make clear on Thursday that his plans have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past.

"He is very serious about taking measures that are responsible, that have enjoyed bipartisan support and are the kinds that have direct and quick impact on the economy and on jobs," said Carney.

Carney adds that the president will propose specific, measurable steps and discuss how they will paid for, adding they will be steps that independent economic analysts say will promote job and economic growth.   

Republicans continued to assail the president's economic record, one Obama frequently says prevented a second Great Depression after the 2008 financial system collapse.

Mitch McConnell is Republican Party leader in the U.S. Senate:

"The president can attempt to blame our economic problems all he wants on his political adversaries, or his predecessors, or natural disasters," said McConnell. "But at the end of the day, he is the one - as he said himself - who is responsible for what happens on his watch."

Key Democratic Party leaders in Congress, such as Representative Xavier Becerra want Mr. Obama to present the boldest proposals possible.

"Be bold," said Becerra. "Hit it out of the park [like a home run in baseball].  The American public is waiting for that leadership that tells us once again that we are ready to lead -- not just the United States of America, but [also] the entire world back from this abyss."

Mr. Obama's labor union supporters have made the same appeal to the president, who spoke at a Labor Day rally in Detroit, Michigan on Monday.

"There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it," said President Obama. "Labor is onboard, business is onboard; we just need Congress to get onboard.  Let's put America back to work."

On the presidential campaign trail, Republican hopefuls have intensified their attacks on the president, even as they jockey for position in their party's crowded field.

As he presented his 59-point plan to create jobs and grow the economy, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said this about Mr. Obama:

"I'm concerned about middle income Americans - the families all over this country that have really suffered under the Obama economy," said Romney. "He is not a bad guy.  He just doesn't have a clue what to do, in part, because he just hasn't ever done it before.  And I have."

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Carney welcomed what he called "the spirit of compromise" in a letter President Obama received from House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor.  The lawmakers said that differences on how to improve the economy and create jobs should not preclude action in areas where agreement exists.  

It remains to be seen whether a deeply divided Congress that is already facing major decisions before the end of the year on debt and deficit reductions will be able to act on Mr. Obama's new jobs and growth plan.

The White House's Jay Carney has declined to detail the legislative path the president has in mind, adding that major parts of Obama's economic package will require "sensible," "pragmatic" and "bipartisan" action by Congress.

As for how Obama expects his proposals can be paid for in the current austere economic environment, indications are that this will involve proposals he made during the difficult negotiations on debt and deficit reduction.  These include closing tax loopholes, having higher income Americans pay more taxes, and possibly adjusting major government programs such as Medicare and Social Security.  

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