COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A day after proposing to pay for his new jobs plan with tax hikes opposed by Republicans, President Barack Obama headed for GOP turf Tuesday to try to sell the $447 billion package.
Obama flew Tuesday afternoon to Ohio, home state of House Speaker John Boehner, where he planned to visit a school undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation and promote a $25 billion spending initiative for school renovations and improvements. The new spending is a key component of the jobs bill the president sent to Congress on Monday.
Boehner's district is farther west, but Obama was in Republican territory in a key swing state for the 2012 presidential election. Boehner's office had no comment on Obama's visit.
After receiving the president's jobs proposal politely after he unveiled it before Congress last week, Boehner and other Republicans grew notably more skeptical Monday once the White House announced plans to pay for the costly measure entirely with tax increases on the rich and corporations that the GOP has already rejected.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the president's plan was little more than a series of old ideas repackaged under a new title.
"All he's really doing is just proposing a hodge-podge of retread ideas aimed at convincing people that a temporary fix is really permanent and that it will create permanent jobs. And then daring Republicans to vote against it," McConnell said Tuesday. "Well, I think most people see through all this."
The bulk of the payment comes from nearly $400 billion from limiting the deductions on charitable contributions and other items that wealthy people can take. There's also $40 billion from closing oil and gas loopholes, $18 billion from hiking taxes on certain income made by fund managers, and $3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
Obama has said he's asking the wealthy to pay their fair share, and he called on Congress to pass the bill without delay.
"The only thing that's stopping it is politics," Obama said Monday. "And we can't afford these same political games. Not now."
Boehner and other Republicans questioned whether Obama was really intent on bipartisanship if he was asking them to swallow tax hikes they already opposed, without any spending cuts.
"We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn't appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit," said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
The jobs package would offer tax cuts for workers and employers by reducing the Social Security payroll tax. Spending elements include more money to hire teachers, rebuild schools and pay unemployment benefits. There are also tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.
Obama's top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said Tuesday that the White House wants Congress to act on the entire bill rather than approaching it piecemeal. "We're not in a negotiation to break up the package," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." ''It's not an a la carte menu."
But later Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney made clear that the president wouldn't fight efforts by Congress to vote on the bill piece by piece, rather than as a package.
"If Congress were to send a portion of the American Jobs Act, the president would of course not veto it. He would sign it," Carney told reporters traveling to Ohio with the president on Air Force One. "Then he would return to press Congress to get the rest of the job done.
Ahead of the president's speech in Ohio Tuesday, Republicans heaped criticism on Obama's plan and his approach of selling it in critically important electoral states. The Ohio Republican Party chairman, Kevin DeWine, said Obama has lost credibility about jobs promises in his state.
"The real question here is, should Ohioans believe the economically incompetent president from 2010, or the campaigner-in-chief of 2011?" he said.
Obama campaigned for the jobs bill last week in Virginia and was scheduled to visit North Carolina on Wednesday. Both are traditionally Republican-leaning that Obama won in 2008, and that the president's re-election campaign urgently wants to hold in 2012. The White House, which has gotten burned in the past by making overly optimistic job-creation predictions, has avoided estimating how many jobs the package would create. But in an interview Monday on NBC News, Obama embraced an estimate from an outside economist, Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, and said the bill "could mean an additional 2 million jobs."
For Obama, some progress on the economy has become a political imperative as he approaches his re-election campaign with the economy stalled, unemployment at 9.1 percent and polls showing the public unhappy with his stewardship of the issue.
The Census Bureau also reported Tuesday that the ranks of the nation's poor swelled to nearly 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment woes left millions of Americans struggling and out of work.
- John Boehner