Vice President Joe Biden told public safety officers in Michigan Wednesday that the Obama administration's jobs plan will help struggling cities, a day after Senate Republicans blocked action on the $447 billion bill.
Biden brought his pitch for the American Jobs Act to Flint, an industrial city that suffers from high crime and declining employment. He said statistics show that Flint's rate of murders, rapes and fires rose sharply in the past two years as police and fire staffing levels have dropped.
"It's hard enough to do your job in good economic times. ... It's almost impossible to serve in bad economic times," he told officials in a downtown fire station. "That is a witches' brew. That is a mixture for a cancer in the city."
The bill would pump $5 billion into supporting jobs for police and firefighters, which Biden said is the government's "most basic obligation to keep its citizens safe."
The jobs plan would reduce payroll taxes on workers and employers, extend benefits to long-term unemployed people, and help local governments keep teachers, police officers and firefighters on the job.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he will keep rallying public support and pushing Congress to vote on the plan that he says independent economists have said would help grow the economy and create nearly 2 million jobs next year.
Biden had a similar message later in the afternoon at Grand Rapids Central High School, where he told students about plans to put workers back on the job by spending $25 billion to rebuild and modernize schools.
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said his struggling city has been helped by federal money -- most recently with funding allowing it to hire six police officers -- but it clearly needs more.
"I can tell you the American Jobs Act responds to the need that I hear from people and families and business owners every day in Flint," Walling said. "It provides a strategy for economy growth. It will keep teachers in the classroom ... (and) cops on the beat.
He told reporters he was disappointed by the partisan gridlock in Washington.
"We're at a time when the federal government has to step up and do its part," Walling said.
At a downtown Grand Rapids fundraiser, Biden told about 50 local Democrats, "There's even more at stake now than when you elected us in `08," according to The Grand Rapids Press.
"It's not that they're good guys or bad guys. I have absolutely no faith in their judgment," he said of Republicans holding up the jobs plan.
The White House and Congressional leaders are moving on to alternative ways to address the nation's painful 9.1 percent unemployment, including breaking the legislation into smaller pieces. On Wednesday, both the House and Senate were expected to approve long-stalled trade pacts with Korea, Panama and Colombia.
Obama will travel to a suburban Detroit auto plant Friday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who's in the U.S. for a state visit.
"Republicans will continue to seek out any Democrat who's more interested in jobs than in political posturing and work with them on bipartisan legislation like the trade bills we'll vote on tonight," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday. "What we will not do, though, is vote in favor of any more misguided stimulus bills because some bill writer slapped the word `Jobs' on the cover page."