Speaking from the East Room of the White House, President Obama once again challenged congressional lawmakers to move forward with his jobs bill or explain their opposition to it directly to the American public. He cited a group of independent economists who said that the bill would have a significant impact on the economy and middle class families, and cautioned that if lawmakers don’t act, fewer jobs will be created and the nation’s economic recovery will be weakened.
The Senate is set to vote on a version of the bill next week that includes a 5.6 percent surtax on earnings above $1 million, which Majority Leader Harry Reid says would raise enough to pay for the $447 billion package within the required ten-year period. The tax hike would kick in in 2013.
“Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill when it comes up for a vote [next week] needs to explain exactly why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation at such an urgent time for our families and for our businesses,” he said, and urged them to think “long and hard about what’s at stake.”
Congressional Republicans who love tax cuts should love his plan, Obama said, because it would cut taxes for “virtually every worker and small business in America.” In addition, he noted, it provides funding to create or save jobs held by hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers and firefighters who’ve been laid off. Asking the nation’s top earners to pay their fair share would help fully fund the bill.
“Some see this as class warfare, I see it as a simple choice. We can either keep taxes exactly as they are for millionaires and billionaires, with loopholes that lead them to have lower tax rates in some cases than plumbers and teachers, or we can put teachers and construction workers and veterans back on the job,” he said. “We can fight to protect tax cuts for folks who don’t need them and aren’t asking for them or we can cut taxes for virtually every small worker and small business in America, but we can’t afford to do both.”
Obama also said that his package reflects proposals that traditionally have received bipartisan support and could grow the economy an additional two percent, or 1.9 million jobs.
“Do [Republicans] have a plan that would have a similar impact? Because if they do, I’m happy to hear it, but I haven’t heard them offer alternatives that would have that same kind of impact and that’s what we need right now,” he said.
Republicans were eerily silent on Obama’s remarks, although House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaking on the House floor reiterated his party’s stands against raising taxes and for reforming entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, which he said are the real drivers of the nation’s debt.
While Obama was holding his news conference, House Speaker John Boehner was down the road at the Newseum, speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum. He said that while he and Cantor have made every effort to seek common ground with the president, Obama has given up.
“Nothing has disappointed me more than what's happened over the last five weeks, to watch the president of the United States give up on governing, give up on leading and spend full time campaigning,” Boehner said.
(Photo: White House)