President Barack Obama Thursday urged Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs package, challenging Congressional Republicans to explain their opposition to the legislation.
With the Senate expected to hold a vote on the package, called the American Jobs Act, Obama said during a wide-ranging press conference that his legislation is paid in full and has ideas members of both parties have supported in the past.
The president also highlighted the positive reviews from independent economists, who he said estimated 1.9 million jobs could be created through the American Jobs Act.
Any senator contemplating a vote against the package needs to explain exactly why they would oppose something we know would improve our economic situation, Obama said.
While Obama argued for passing his entire package, he was also open to passing it piece-by-piece, which is what Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have suggested.
The package is a mix of tax cuts and new spending to prevent teacher layoffs and employ construction workers. To pay for the plan, Obama proposed eliminating tax breaks for oil companies, taxing as regular income hedge fund managers' capital gains and restricting tax deductions on households making $250,000 a year or more.
However, Obama said he was comfortable with an alternative funding provision Senate Democrats proposed Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday proposed a five percent tax surcharge on millionaires and billionaires.
Republicans have supported pieces, such as a payroll tax cut and a tax credit for hiring veterans.
Obama has taken his pitch for the jobs bill on the road, even heading out to an old bridge between Ohio and Kentucky-home states of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, respectively-to stress the necessity of spending on infrastructure improvements that will employ construction workers.
Wants Congress to Move Aggressively
In response to a question suggesting a campaign against a do-nothing Congress, a la Harry Truman's successful 1948 campaign theme, Obama said he would prefer lawmakers act on his jobs package.
I would love nothing more than to see Congress act so aggressively that I can't campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress, Obama said. If Congress does nothing, it's not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town.
While Republicans have wanted legislation they can swallow, the president said he has always been open for negotiation.
The response from Republicans has been 'no,' Obama said. They haven't given a good reason why they're opposed to putting construction workers back on the job or teachers back in the classroom.