President Obama has gone on the offensive by wasting no time to send his comprehensive jobs program to Congress. Energized and forceful, he sent a clear message to the GOP-controlled House regarding his American Jobs Act: “Pass this bill now.”
Out of the box, he appears to be a different chief executive than the one that used a more diplomatic approach in pushing his other parts of his legislative agenda. In the summer of 2009, President Obama and congressional Democrats lost complete control of the messaging in their fight to gain public support for the health care reform bill, which in part led to the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 midterm election cycle. Since then, Obama has received harsh criticism from supporters for being too conciliatory in his dealings with the GOP, leaving them to question whether he has enough fight in him.
During a brutal battle with congressional Republicans over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, which led to rating agency S&P’s downgrade of its credit rating and brought the federal government to the brink of default, Obama began employing the tactic of engaging the electorate in the process and challenging his political opponents to put the economy before politics. He continued this tactic in the days leading up to his address last week before a rare joint session of Congress. With 14 months before the 2012 presidential election, he shows no signs of letting up.
According to Obama and White House officials, the bill has much to offer both African-American individuals and businesses. It includes tax cuts they say will benefit more than 100,000 Black-owned firms and help them gain access to capital and grow, and nearly 20 million Black workers. The approximately $450 billion plan also includes $35 billion to prevent the layoff of up to 280,000 teachers and keep more firefighters and police on the job. Billions more would be invested in refurbishing crumbling schools and roads, bridges, railways and airports.
Obama is taking his message on the road to win public support. Last week he spoke at the University of Richmond, home base of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who has already voiced his opposition to the president’s plan. “Anything that is akin to the stimulus bill I think is not going to be acceptable to the American people,” Cantor told reporters at his weekly press briefing Monday. “I don’t believe that our members are going to be interested in pursuing that. I certainly am not.”
On Monday he delivered remarks in the Rose Garden, surrounded by teachers, veterans and others whom he says would benefit from the bill’s passage before sending it to Congress later that day. “This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country,” he said. “This is the bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. This is a bill that is based on ideas from both Democrats and Republicans. And this is the bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays. I’m sending this bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately.”
Obama also plans to deliver similar remarks this week in Ohio, home state of House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio and in North Carolina. In addition, he made a surprise appearance at a White House panel discussion Monday afternoon during which he acknowledged the difficult road ahead.
“There’s going to be enormous resistance and right now our politics makes it tougher to get things done here in Washington unless the voices of the American people are heard,” Obama said. “I need people to be out here promoting this and pushing this and making sure everybody understands the details of what this would mean so that one of two things happens: Either Congress gets it done or if Congress doesn’t get it done, people know exactly what’s holding it up and we’re able to continue to apply pressure so that we can actually do what’s right for the economy.”