By Mike Dorning -Bloomberg News
PresidentÂ Barack Obama channeled the national frustration with the economy that threatens his political standing and challenged theÂ U.S. Congress to pass a $447 billion jobs plan tilted heavily toward the Republican prescription of tax cuts.
The president, speaking before a joint session of Congress, demanded six times that lawmakers act â€œright awayâ€ on a plan that would boost spending on infrastructure, stem teacher layoffs and cut in half the payroll taxes paid by workers and small business owners.
â€œThe question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy,â€ Obama told the lawmakers yesterday.
Job growth stalled last month and theÂ unemployment rate has hovered at or above 9 percent for more than two years. The presidentâ€™s job-approval ratings are falling to new lows as public doubts about his stewardship of the economy rise. Public opinion of Congress has dropped even lower.
Tax cuts account for more than half the dollar value of the presidentâ€™s latest plan to turn the economy around, and administration officials said they believe that will have the greatest appeal to Republicans in Congress. The president dared his adversaries to oppose a provision that would extend and deepen payroll tax cuts due to expire Dec. 31.
â€œI know some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live,â€ he said. â€œNow is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.â€
House Majority LeaderÂ Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican who has been a frequent critic of Obama, said there may be areas of common ground, such as tax reductions for small businesses.
â€œThatâ€™s something we Republicans have been advocating for quite some time now,â€ Cantor said in a Bloomberg Television interview. He also indicated Republicans may support extending the payroll tax for workers.
Still, some other Republicans were hesitant.
â€œI am not sure that a payroll tax holiday is really going to spur the economy,â€ said Representative Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican. He added that â€œa better tax break would be something that would spur along innovation and wealth generationâ€ and creates â€œancillary jobs.â€
The 2012 presidential election and the political consequences of public blame for inaction on joblessness formed an undercurrent in the speech. Even as Obama warned against delay, he noted â€œthe next election is 14 months away.â€ He said he would take his case for passage of the bill â€œto every corner of the country.â€
Hours before Obama addressed Congress and a national television audience, Federal Reserve ChairmanÂ Ben S. Bernanke said policy makers will discuss at their next meeting this month the tools they could use â€œto promote a stronger economic recovery in the context ofprice stability.â€ In a speech to economists inÂ Minneapolis, Bernanke stopped short of signaling what he believes is the central bankâ€™s best option to aid the economy.
Treasuries and the Standard & Poorâ€™s 500 Index futures declined after Obama detailed his plan. Ten-year yields climbed two basis points to 1.99 percent as of 10:35 a.m. inÂ London. S&P 500 futures fell 0.3 percent.
Obama stressed that he would pay for the entire jobs package with offsetting spending cuts and increases inÂ tax revenue over the next decade. He said he would announce the offsets by Sept. 19.
Obama didnâ€™t mention the total cost in his televised address. Nor did he utter the word â€œstimulus,â€ though Republican lawmakers were quick to draw comparisons with the $825 billion spending and tax-cut program of 2009 that has become unpopular with voters.
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