Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said his $447 billion jobs package, which faces a test vote in the Senate, would provide the U.S. economy “with the jolt that it really needs right now” and asked Americans to urge their senators to support the legislation.
“This jobs bill can help guard against another downturn here in America,” Obama said today in a weekly radio and Internet address.
Obama met yesterday with Senate Democratic leaders at the White House on a strategy for holding a vote on the plan, a mix of tax cuts and spending aimed at spurring hiring as the nation’s jobless rate remained at 9.1 percent last month. It’s been at 9 percent or higher since April.
The president renewed his call for opponents of the package to “explain why” they oppose provisions, including cutting the payroll tax for workers and employers in half, giving direct aid to states and spending $105 billion on infrastructure projects.
“If the Republicans in Congress think they have a better plan for creating jobs right now, they should prove it,” Obama said. Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives, oppose tax increases.
Obama defended his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for the measure. He said at a news conference Oct. 6 that he’s “comfortable” with a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to offset the cost of the jobs package by imposing a 5.6 percent surtax on those earning at least $1 million. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that would generate $453 billion.
“We can either keep taxes exactly as they are for millionaires and billionaires, or we can ask them to pay at least the same rate as a plumber or a bus driver,” he said in the radio address. “And in the process, we can put teachers and construction workers and veterans back on the job. We can either fight to protect their tax cuts, or we can cut taxes for virtually every worker and small business in America. But we can’t afford to do both.”
Obama’s plan faces hurdles in the House, where Republicans hold the majority and oppose the tax increases in the plan, and in the Senate, where it will take 60 votes to end efforts to obstruct it and Democrats have just 53 seats. Reid has set a vote to proceed on the legislation for Oct. 11.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota, in the weekly Republican address, said the president’s jobs package is a “cynical political ploy” to boost his re-election prospects and “nothing but a rehash of the same failed ideas he’s already tried, combined with a huge tax increase.”
Thune said the plan is “so flawed that Senate Democrats have rejected” elements of it. At the same time, Thune said congressional Democrats’ proposals are “not to grow jobs, but to improve their political standing.” Thune said Obama is to blame for an additional 2 million unemployed, 6 million in poverty, 13 million on food stamps and a 39 percent debt increase since he took office.
Thune called for the U.S. to do “all it can to lower trade barriers” in order to sell more U.S. goods overseas. He criticized Obama for a delay in submitting to Congress trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Obama submitted the trade deals to Congress this week and a vote is scheduled for next week.
Citing a dispute between the National Labor Relations Board and Chicago-based Boeing Co., Thune said Obama’s administration “would rather have people unemployed than allow them to work in non-union jobs.”
--With assistance from Roger Runningen and Laura Litvan in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Paul Tighe
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