In a joint-session address Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States faces a national crisis and pressed Congress to urgently pass a jobs package of tax cuts and government spending he is proposing to revive the stalled U.S. economy.
The cost of Obama's plan would be $447 billion, a Senate Democratic aide told Reuters.
With his poll numbers at new lows amid voter frustration with 9.1 percent unemployment, Obama was poised to use a high-stakes address to Congress to pitch a sweeping economic plan that is critical to his re-election chances but he faces an uphill fight with Republicans.
It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away, Obama said.
Those of us here tonight cannot solve all of our nation's woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives, Obama said.
I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans - including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything, Obama said.
Taking aim at Republicans who have consistently opposed his initiatives, Obama said it was time to stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.
Obama, who won Congressional approval of a $800 billion economic stimulus package in 2009, said his jobs plan would cut taxes for workers and businesses and put more construction workers and teachers on the job through infrastructure projects.
It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business, he said.
Wants American Jobs Act Passed in 2011
Obama wants Congress to pass his American Jobs Act by the end of this year. But that may be hard to achieve with politicians already focusing on the presidential and congressional elections in November 2012.
The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy, Obama added. And the American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for.
If Obama can push through his plan, it might provide an economic boost quickly enough for him to reap political benefits. If it stalls in a divided Congress, his strategy will be to blame Republicans for obstructing the economic recovery.
Obama is making payroll tax relief for workers and their employers the centerpiece of his package. He is also proposing further jobless benefits and new investment to rebuild roads, bridges and other crumbling infrastructure plus help states to prevent further layoffs.
How much of the jobs package is viable remains in question. Almost all of it ultimately depends on winning support from Republicans who control the House of Representatives and have consistently opposed Obama's spending initiatives.
Obama is seeking to seize the initiative in his bitter ideological battle with Republicans, ease mounting doubts about his economic leadership and turn around his presidency just 14 months before voters decide whether to give him a second term.
Problems Are All Obama's, Now
What's more, even though the majority of the problems the nation currently faces started long before President Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, those problems are now his, end of discussion.
The reason? Political science survey research tells us that the American people elect a president to solve problems, regardless of whether or not he/she was responsible for their origin.
The American people will give the president credit for solve a problem, and blame if doesn't -- and if it's a big problem, the voters will vote him/her out of office.
But don't misunderstand: the American people will not vote President Obama out of office because the opposition party, in this case Congressional Republicans, have offered any semblance of a better plan to address the nation's number 1 problem, the job shortage -- they haven't. The Republican Party's stance has been inadequate, to say the least -- it's amounted to saying no, saying hell no, obstruction, and advocating reckless policies.
It's just that the American people historically give the president credit when the economy is doing well and, conversely assess blame to the president when the economy is performing poorly, even though the president does not have control over free market forces. No, it isn't fair - but that's the way the American people view the presidency: again, they elect presidents to solve problems.
Hence, one can see that the jobs issue will likely say a great deal about Obama's re-election chances, all other factors being equal.
To be sure, a crisis or an unforeseen international event could always appear and represent a bigger issue for voters in 2012, but absent that the jobs issue will likely be the most important issue for voters in 2012.
Political/Public Policy Analysis: Obama's jobs program contains many constructive, worthy, programs -- especially infrastructure -- that will meet current needs and benefit the U.S. economy.
The problem, as noted earlier, willing be trying to convince at least a portion of a very conservative Republican caucus -- especially in the House, where Republicans are in the majority -- to support the programs.
One would like to think that Republicans would -- but in the current partisan, polarized Washington, and entering a presidential election year -- odds are that the GOP will oppose Obama's proposal, simply because it doesn't want to be seen as giving the president a win that could benefit him electorally -- even if that GOP stance hurts the American people and the U.S. economy.
Some Republicans have signaled that they may be able to find common ground with Obama and the Democrats on selected job package elements, such as the tax incentives for businesses to hire, and other tax cuts.
But those are the GOP's words: the proof will be whether the Republican Party's deeds match its words in the weeks and months ahead.