In a speech to a joint session of Congress Thursday night, President Barack Obama warned lawmakers to support his new $450 billion "American Jobs Act" designed to help repair the nation's economy--or else risk appearing to stand against job recovery.
"There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation," he told lawmakers before a nationally televised audience. "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."
The president went proposal-by-proposal, offering tidbits about new payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefit extensions, Medicare reform as well as government spending that play a part in his plan. "Pass this jobs bill," Obama said, "and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers' wages." He added that small business owners will also see their payroll taxes immediately cut in half. You can watch Obama outline his proposals below:
Throughout his speech, Obama claimed that Republicans as well as Democrats had past supported each of his initiatives, re-framing the debate to suggest anyone who isn't for a plan is needlessly obstructing progress.
"You should pass this jobs plan right away," he repeatedly ordered those gathered in the House chamber, and he chastised the lawmakers for partisan bickering.
"Stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy." You can watch his appeal to Congress here:
Thursday's speech comes at a pivotal time for the president as the Republican presidential race heats up and the president's poll numbers continue to plummet.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week showed just 43 percent of adults surveyed approve of the job the president is doing, while 53 percent disapprove. Separately, 62 percent of survey respondents said they disapproved of the president's handling of the economy. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus less than .5 percent.
A turnaround on jobs and the economy would likely boost the president's standing among the American people, but Obama needs Republicans in Congress, especially in the Republican-controlled House, to sign on to any plan in order for it to succeed.
By casting his plans as something each side should support, he placed added pressure on Republicans to bend. The president also pointedly hinted at the potential wrath lawmakers could feel from Americans should it appear that Congress is allowing politics get in the way of a full economic recovery. And most lawmakers are loath to be cast by Democrats as obstructionists on the economy in their own election year.
Obama portrayed his proposal as a remedy to economic woes that should transcend election-season rancor, for the sake of the ordinary Americans struggling to make ends meet. "But know this," he said, "the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here—the people who hired us to work for them—they don't have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. You can watch Obama deliver that admonition below:
The president on Thursday once again asked for the American people to help him persuade lawmakers to act. "I'm heading to Congress to present them with the American Jobs Act. Please watch—and join me in urging them to act. —BO ofa.bo/jobs," the president tweeted as he departed for the speech.
Back in July, the president called on Americans to lobby their lawmakers to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. And when the White House reached an 11th-hour accord with Congress, Obama made a point of crediting the efforts of the American people.
Partisan gridlock has ramped up in Washington this year with a Republican-led House routinely facing off against a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Democratic administration. Even the timing of Thursday's speech became partisan political fodder as the president attempted to schedule his address at the same time as Wednesday night's presidential debate. (Obama folded and moved the speech to Thursday.)
Several Republicans had announced they would not turn up for the speech in protest, though some relented after Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) penned them in by scheduling votes after the speech's conclusion.
But Republican leadership struck a decidedly conciliatory tone post-speech.
Instead of blasting Obama's plan, for example, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement suggesting a willingness to compromise:
The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well. It's my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation.