Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: email@example.com
President Barack Obama again pushed his American Jobs Act during a Thursday press conference, challenging congressional Republicans to explain their opposition and asking the nation's citizens to insist that their representatives take action.
Obama said he expects the U.S. Senate to vote on the bill next week. He voiced his support for a 5.6 percent surtax on income over $1 million, a proposal offered by Senate Democrats this week to pay for the $447 billion jobs plan. That plan includes an extended payroll tax cut, $50 billion in infrastructure investments and $35 billion to state and local governments to rehire teachers, firefighters and police officers who have been laid off.
In total, Obama said independent economic analysts have told him the jobs bill would create 1.9 million jobs and lead to 2 percent growth for the economy. He also expressed a willingness to negotiate with Republicans, saying: "Our doors are always opened." He appeared skeptical that discussions would be productive, though, pointing to the impasse reached during debt ceiling debate.
"People really need help right now. This is not a game," Obama said. "This is not a time for the usual political gridlock."
When the president unveiled his jobs plan in September, House Republicans outlined reasons for their opposition. They noted areas of agreement: investing in infrastructure and providing payroll tax relief for businesses, for example. But they also identified several key elements of Obama's proposal, particularly tax increases, as non-starters from their perspective.
Obama acknowledged the public's skepticism about the potential for any meaningful action to be taken, despite his recent trip to states such as Ohio and Texas to "take the case to the American people."
"That cynicism won't be reduced until Congress does something to prove it wrong," he said.
The president painted a grim economic picture, noting "the danger in Europe" as the European Union's debt crisis threatens to jumpstart a double-dip recession. He said the elements included in his jobs bill would "guard against" the potential impact of another economic downturn. He warned of "fewer jobs and weaker growth" if Congress doesn't act.