Obama nudges Republicans into action with $450bn American Jobs Act


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The Independent US

True to his word, President Barack Obama set forth from Washington yesterday to begin touting the grand "American Jobs Act" which he unveiled to a joint session of Congress late on Thursday.

It came with a warning to Republicans that the blame will be on them if they refuse to pass it and the economic malaise worsens.

With his re-election hopes hostage to the economy, Mr Obama travelled to a university campus in Richmond, Virginia, in the first of several scheduled forays to crucial electoral states to campaign for the larger-than-expected $450bn (£280bn) plan which he hopes will help ease unemployment and give him a platform from which to fight for re-election.

While Mr Obama's speech won plaudits, particularly from the left, for its passion, the task now is to pressure the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass it into law. And that will be far from easy. Both sides know, however, that the Republicans risk earning the wrath of voters if they simply sit on their hands and say "no".

At least half of the cost is associated with measures to extend cuts in payroll taxes to help businesses and employees, as well as an assortment of other tax benefits which Republicans have backed in the past. A tougher sell will be a proposal for a national infrastructure bank to fund repair projects for roads, bridges and schools.

"The next election is 14 months away," Mr Obama said in a speech that was aimed as much at viewers at home as members of Congress. "And the people who sent us here – the people who hired us to work for them – they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months." He told Congress to act on his proposals "right away".

While there is scant chance that the package will survive in its entirety, there were some faint whiffs of compromise from the Republican side last night. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, said: "I heard plenty in the President's speech last night where there is a lot of room for commonality and we can get something done quickly." John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said the President's proposals "merit consideration".

The Vice-President, Joe Biden, said the package was not meant as a take-it-or-leave-it deal and that the White House would be open to negotiating some of its details.