Obama Prods Cantor With Humor, Ridicule to Get House Jobs Vote

President Barack Obama used humor and ridicule to prod House Majority Leader Eric Cantor into scheduling a vote on his $447 billion jobs bill.

“I mean, what’s the problem?” Obama said yesterday at a Texas rally to boost the economy and reduce unemployment for everyone from teachers to construction workers. “Do they not have the time? They just had a week off! I -- is it inconvenient?”

Obama focused on Cantor, a Virginia Republican, as he promoted the package of tax cuts and spending at a community college in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite. Cantor and other Republicans have been critical of spending portions of the package, and the majority leader said yesterday the House would consider pieces of the proposal.

Obama said that on Oct. 3 Cantor said he “won’t even let this jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives.”

The president challenged Cantor to identify what parts of the bill he doesn’t “believe in,” wondering whether it was building roads and bridges, aid for veterans or more teachers in schools.

“And if you won’t do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote, so that the entire country knows exactly where members of Congress stand,” Obama said. “Put your cards on the table.”

The president made his sixth speech on the jobs package in less than a month as he grapples with Republicans over the best way to jump-start the economy and create jobs to reduce a national unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent.

‘Common Ground’

Cantor’s office responded with a statement saying Republicans have their own ideas about spurring job growth, “but that shouldn’t prevent us from trying to find areas of common ground with the president.”

Obama “needs to understand that his ‘my way or the highway’ approach simply isn’t going to work in the House or the Democratic Senate, especially in light of his abysmal record on jobs,” a spokesman for Cantor, Brad Dayspring, said.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, sought to downplay differences with the administration.

“There’s an honest effort under way to try to find common ground with those elements that are in sync with those ideas that we have,” Boehner said at a news conference at the Capitol. “But you know, nobody gets everything they want.”

While Obama called for Congress to vote on his entire proposal, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president would sign legislation that included only portions of his plan.

Move in Senate

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, tried to force a vote on Obama’s jobs plan yesterday in the chamber, where Democrats have yet to unite behind the proposal.

Noting that Obama has been demanding that Congress act on his plan, McConnell said, “We are more than happy to vote on it.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid called McConnell’s action a “political stunt.” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he plans to bring up the jobs measure later this month after making changes to provisions opposed by some Democrats.

Since announcing his package on Sept 8, Obama’s been traveling outside Washington to urge voters to turn up the heat on Congress. Leaders of a divided Congress haven’t scheduled any action.

Republican Territory

Eastfield College, where Obama delivered his remarks, is in the district of Representative Jeb Hensarling, one of the Republican critics of the jobs package. It’s the fourth time since Sept. 8 that the president has waded into an opponent’s turf to pitch the program.

Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, has dismissed the package as “another round of stimulus” when the U.S. needs “jobs that earn, not jobs that cost.”

Obama lobbied for the package on Sept. 13 and Sept. 22 in Ohio -- Boehner’s home state -- and on Sept. 9 in Richmond, Virginia, part of Cantor’s district.

“It’s partly about sharpening differences, but it’s also about fearlessly taking the fight right into the belly of the beast,” said Bruce Buchanan, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

Republicans say some of Obama’s proposals, such as payroll tax cuts, are worth considering. They object to spending proposals and oppose raising taxes to pay for them.

Payroll Taxes

The president’s plan would reduce payroll taxes for employees and employers, extend jobless benefits, provide $35 billion in aid to states to prevent as many as 280,000 teacher and first responder layoffs, add $30 billion for high school and community college modernization and boost spending on public works projects such as roads and bridges. It also would provide tax breaks for new employers to hire the unemployed.

“We’re trying to cushion the blow now, keep educators in the classroom and bring back those who have been laid off,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on a conference call with reporters.

The package would help avoid a return to recession by maintaining growth and pushing down the unemployment rate next year, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The legislation would increase gross domestic product by 0.6 percent next year and add or keep 275,000 workers on payrolls, the median estimates in the survey of 34 economists showed. The program would also lower the jobless rate by 0.2 percentage point in 2012, economists said.

Offsetting Cost

Obama would pay for it by capping itemized deductions for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and couples earning more than $250,000. The plan would treat carried interest as ordinary income to raise $18 billion, end oil and gas subsidies for a savings of $40 billion and repeal accelerated depreciation on corporate jets to save $3 billion.

While in Texas, Obama held two fundraisers in Dallas for his re-election campaign. The first was for about 500 people, with tickets starting at $500 per person. The second event was for 30 people who donated $35,800 per couple.

The president later flew to St. Louis for two fundraisers. Supporters at one event contributed $25,000 per person or $35,800 for a couple. They were hosted by wind-farm investor Tom Carnahan, along with Joyce Aboussie, a long-time Democratic fundraiser in St. Louis, and Bob Clark, chairman and chief executive of Clayco Inc.

Carnahan, a member of a prominent Missouri Democratic family, has been tapped by the Obama campaign as its chief Missouri fundraiser, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Carnahan is chairman of Wind Capital Group, a St. Louis-based wind energy company. His sister, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Republican Roy Blunt.

He held a second event at a St. Louis hotel that cost $250 per person.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE