President Obama: Pass jobs bill or explain why not
(AP) - Defiant and frustrated, President Barack Obamaaggressively challenged Republicans Thursday to get behind his jobsplan or explain why not, declaring that if Congress fails to act"the American people will run them out of town."
The president used a White House news conference to attempt toheighten the pressure he's sought to create on the GOP by travelingaround the country, into swing states and onto the home turf of keyRepublican foes including House Speaker John Boehner and Texas Gov.Rick Perry.
Giving a bit of ground on his own plan, he endorsed a newproposal by Senate Democrats to tax millionaires to pay for hisjobs program. "This is not a game," he said.
Obama made no apologies for his decision to abandon seekingcompromise with Republicans in favor of assailing them, sometimesby name. He contended that he'd gone out of his way to try to workwith the GOP since becoming president, reaching hard-fought dealsto raise the government's borrowing limit and avert a governmentshutdown, and had gotten nothing in return.
"Each time, what we have seen is games playing," the presidentsaid. "I am always open to negotiations. What is also true is theyneed to do something."
Obama was still at the lectern when Senate Majority Leader HarryReid told Republicans he would permit a test vote as early as lateThursday on the president's original measure. There was littledoubt it would fail, the outcome Republicans hoped for.
The president predicted dire political consequences for hisopponents if they don't go along.
"I think the American people will run them out of town becausethey are frustrated and they know we need to do something big,something bold."
"We will just keep on going at it and hammering away untilsomething gets done," he said. "And I would love nothing morethan to see Congress act so aggressively that I can't campaignagainst them as a do-nothing Congress."
Yet Obama's campaign has not swayed Capitol Hill Republicans whooppose the higher taxes he and other Democrats want to use to payfor his proposal. They accuse Obama of playing "campaigner inchief" instead of working with them.
"If the goal is to create jobs, then why are we even talkingabout tax hikes?" Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,said Thursday.
Republicans are resolutely opposed to much of Obama's jobsinitiative, both for its tax increases for wealthier people andsmall businesses and its reprise of stimulus spending on roads,bridges and schools and grants to local governments to pay thesalaries of teachers and first responders. They criticize his billas another version of his $825 billion stimulus of 2009, one thatthis time would rely on raising taxes.
Obama did say he would support a new approach by SenateDemocrats for paying for his jobs bill with a tax on millionairesrather than his plan to raise taxes on couples making more than$250,000.
The president's strident tone underscored a difficult politicalpredicament as he seeks re-election with the economy slowing andunemployment stuck above 9 percent. "Our economy really needs ajolt right now," he said.
The president said that without his nearly $450 billion packageof tax cuts and public works spending there will be fewer jobs andweaker growth. He said the bill could guard against anothereconomic downturn if the situation in debt-laden Europe worsens.
"If it turns out that there are Republicans who are opposed tothis bill, they need to explain to me, but more importantly totheir constituents - who's the American people - why they'reopposed and what would they do."
"What I've done over the last several weeks is to take the caseto the American people so that they understand what's at stake."
Obama said the economy is weaker now than at the beginning ofthe year. Citing economists' estimates, he said his $447 billionjobs bill would help the economy grow by 2 percent and create 1.9million jobs.
"At a time when so many people are having such a hard time, wehave to have an approach, we have to take action that is big enoughto meet the moment," he said.
Obama also said the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstratorsprotesting against Wall Street and economic inequality areexpressing the frustrations of the American public.
He said he understands the public's concerns about how thenation's financial system works. And he said Americans see WallStreet as an example of the financial industry not always followingthe rules.
Asked why there hadn't been more prosecutions in the financialsector, Obama said that many of the activities that precipitatedthe financial crisis in 2008 were not necessarily illegal. He saidmany financial schemes were probably immoral, inappropriate orreckless and required new regulations.
Obama criticized efforts in Congress, led by Republicans, toroll back some of the financial rules approved last year. Hedefended the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by thatthe legislation against GOP efforts to weaken it.