Citing new challenges to the U.S. economy from abroad, President Obama urged Republicans in Congress to help pass more components of the $447 billion American Jobs Act he proposed last year in order to slow ongoing public-sector layoffs.
“Given the signs of weakness in the world economy, not just in Europe but also some softening in Asia, it’s critical we take the actions we can to strengthen the American economy right now,” Obama said in a Friday press conference at the White House. “Last September, I sent Congress a detailed jobs plan full of the bipartisan ideas that would put more Americans back to work. It had broad support from the American people, it was fully paid for. If Congress had passed it in full, we’d be on track to have a million more Americans working this year.”
Noting that the private sector in America had added jobs for 27 months in a row, Obama urged Congress to act and keep public employees at their jobs amid tough budget cuts at the state and local levels around the country. His bill includes spending on infrastructure projects in order to employ construction workers, aid to states to keep teachers, firefighters and cops at work, and tax breaks to help spur businesses to hire, all paid for by a tax increase on wealthy Americans.
“The private sector is doing fine,” he said. “Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.”
Obama’s new legislative push comes as the recovery appears to be slowing down, with even some of the more bullish economists revising projections downward in the wake of discouraging jobs reports and ongoing troubles in Europe and China.
The RNC mocked Obama for laying the blame for a weak economy elsewhere, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) recently acknowledged that the debt crisis in the EU is serious, warning on Thursday that “[Europe’s] recession is affecting our economic growth today, and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sounded a similar note on FOX News Thursday, saying Europe “could well have an adverse impact on our economy.” That said, there’s little sign Republicans are interested in passing more stimulus spending, instead using the recent slowdown as an argument to extend the Bush tax cuts.
Obama refrained from directly criticizing Republicans or Mitt Romney during the press conference, but his push for a jobs bill he proposed in September is impossible to divorce from the politics of the presidential race. Romney and outside conservative groups are pouring tens of millions of dollars into advertising claiming that Obama is to blame for high unemployment. The president’s renewed legislative effort is part of a broader effort to persuade Americans he has a clear plan for reviving the economy and that the historically unpopular Republican Congress is the one holding up the recovery.
“We could be putting a lot of people back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, some of our schools,” Obama said at the presser. “There’s work to be done. There are workers to do it. Let’s put them back to work right now.”
In addition to the White House push, the Obama campaign is running a new ad in swing states calling on Republicans to pass legislation to keep public employees and construction workers using funds raised by taxing the wealthy.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.