Obama Keeps Pushing for $447 Billion Jobs Bill

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In a press conference at the White House, the president again demanded that Congress pass his stalled economic package

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President Obama, again pushing his $447 billion jobs plan, acknowledged on Thursday that economic "growth has slowed" in the United States and cast the economy as so "fragile" it desperately needs his controversial bill.

"People really need help right now," Obama said at a news conference in the East Room. "Our economy really needs a jolt right now. It is not a game. This is not the time for the usual political gridlock."

"There is no doubt growth has slowed," he added. "There is no doubt the economy is weaker now then it was at the beginning of the year."

In defending his jobs effort, Obama cast himself as a president who has gone the extra mile towards compromise "sometimes to my political peril," only to be blocked by an intransigent GOP.

With a Senate vote looming next week, the president repeatedly asked "why would you vote against this bill?" He took direct aim at the charge of class warfare heard often from his critics.

"Some see this as class warfare and I see it as a simple choice," Obama said. "We can keep taxes exactly as they are for millionaires and billionaires... or we can put teachers and construction workers and veterans back on the job. We can fight to protect tax cuts for folks that don't need them and weren't asking for them, or cut taxes for virtually every workers and small business in America."

But he signaled a willingness to accept the altered plan offered by Senate Democrats, changing the funding for the jobs bill from Obama's proposals to increase taxes on families earning more than $250,000 and on the oil and gas industries, to charging a 5.6 surtax on millionaires, which Democrats argue is more politically palatable.

"There's going to be more work to do with respect to making our tax system fair and just and promoting growth," Obama told reporters, "but in terms of the immediate action of getting this jobs bill passed, I'm fine with the approach they're taking."

Republicans, he added, must step up with a proposal of their own if they continue to block his. "We know that this jobs bill based on independent analysis could grow the economy almost an additional 2 percent, that could mean an additional 1.9 million jobs. Do they have a plan that would have a similar impact? Because if they do I'd be happy to hear it," he said.

Under questioning, Obama acknowledged that the public is "cynical" about what it sees in Washington.

But he put the blame on Republicans he said have been guilty of obstructionism since he became president. "I have gone out of my way in every instance, sometimes at my own political peril and to the frustration of Democrats, to work with Republicans to find common ground," he said.

"Each time what we have seen is games played, a preference to trying to score political points rather than trying to get something done on the other side," Obama said.

Image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters

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George E. Condon Jr.

George E. Condon Jr is a staff writer (White House) with National Journal.

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