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Obama Says Jobs at Risk in ‘Gamesmanship’ Over Transportation

LA Traffic
Traffic moves along on Interstate 10 freeway approaching Interstate 405 freeway in Los Angeles. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama renewed his call for Congress to extend legislation to fund highways and mass-transit projects he said would save “hundreds of thousands” of jobs.

Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address that while “there’s a lot of talk in Washington these days about creating jobs,” many are being put at risk “just because of political gamesmanship.”

The law expires Sept. 30 and the president is seeking to head off a battle over differences between the House and Senate to avoid a lapse in funding and tax revenue as occurred when the two chambers couldn’t agree on legislation to extend the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Obama plans to unveil economic proposals, including tax breaks to spur hiring and more spending on infrastructure, at a joint session of Congress at 7 p.m. Washington time on Sept. 8. Lawmakers are scheduled to return from their August recess next week.

Employment in the U.S. unexpectedly stagnated in August. The jobless rate held at 9.1 percent and payrolls were unchanged, the weakest reading since September 2010, the Labor Department said yesterday in Washington.

’Jobs at Risk’

“There’s no reason to put more jobs at risk in an industry that has been one of the hardest-hit in this recession,” he said in the address. “There’s no reason to cut off funding for transportation projects at a time when so many of our roads are congested; so many of our bridges are in need of repair; and so many businesses are feeling the cost of delays.”

The Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, is at odds with the Republican-controlled House over the transportation funding measure.

Obama held an Aug. 31 Rose Garden event urging lawmakers to extend the legislation and was joined by David Chavern, chief operating officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

If the bill expires, the president said, it would be a “disaster for our infrastructure and our economy” and would immediately lead to more than 4,000 workers being furloughed without pay.

“If it’s delayed for just 10 days, we will lose nearly $1 billion in highway funding that we can never get back,” he said.  “And if we wait even longer, almost 1 million workers could be in danger of losing their jobs over the next year.”

Republican Job Plan

He said the consequences would be felt nationally, pointing to 19,000 jobs that could be lost in Virginia and more than 35,000 people who could be out of work in Florida if the legislation expires.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said in the Republicans’ weekly address that the president should eliminate regulations that harm job creation and cause increases in gas prices. He outlined parts of the Republican jobs plan, which includes increasing U.S. energy production and approving free trade agreements.

“While our workers are being held back by Washington, there’s nothing in place to stop the federal government from bankrolling further big government spending -- the kind that leads to government expansion into private-sector jobs, burdensome mandates on job creators and skyrocketing national debt,” he said in the address.

Goodlatte called on the president to encourage bipartisan support for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, which requires approval by two-thirds of both House and Senate members, and then ratification by three-fourths of the 50 states.

Getting the constitutional amendment passed “won’t be easy” he said. “We need bipartisan support to get the Balanced Budget Amendment across the finish line,” he said.

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