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News, September 2011
Obama Says Republicans Must Back US First, By Creating Jobs
Obama says GOP must back US first, create jobs
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press
Sep 5, 2011, 9:26 PM EDT
DETROIT (AP) --
President Barack Obama used a boisterous Labor Day rally to put congressional Republicans on the spot, challenging them to place the country's interests above all else and vote to create jobs and put the economy back on a path toward growth. "Show us what you've got," he said.
In a partial preview of the jobs speech he's delivering to Congress Thursday night, Obama said roads and bridges nationwide need rebuilding and more than 1 million unemployed construction workers are itching to "get dirty" making the repairs. He portrayed Congress as an obstacle to getting that work done.
I'm going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems," Obama said at an annual Labor Day rally sponsored by the Detroit-area AFL-CIO. "Given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together. But we're not going to wait for them."
"We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress. We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party," he said.
Congress returns from its summer recess this week and the faltering economy and jobs shortage are expected to be a dominant theme.
Besides spending on public works, Obama said he wants pending trade deals passed to open new markets for U.S. goods. He also said he wants Republicans to prove they'll fight as hard to cut taxes for the middle class as they do for profitable oil companies and the wealthiest Americans.
The president is expected to call for continuing a payroll tax cut for workers and jobless benefits for the unemployed. Some Republicans oppose extending the payroll tax cut, calling it an unproven job creator that will only add to the nation's massive debt. The tax cut extension is set to expire Jan. 1.
Republicans also cite huge federal budget deficits in expressing opposition to vast new spending on jobs programs.
But Obama said lawmakers need to act - and act quickly. "The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now," he told a supportive union crowd that Detroit police said was in the thousands. The event at a General Motors Corp. parking lot in the shadow of the automaker's headquarters building had the sound and feel of a campaign event, with the union audience breaking into chants of "Four More Years" throughout the president's 25-minute speech.
Obama could be including himself in that call for action. His remarks came as he's facing biting criticism from the GOP for presiding over a persistently weak economy and high unemployment. Republicans dubbed him "President Zero" after a dismal jobs report last Friday showed that employers added no jobs in August - which hasn't happened since 1945. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained unchanged at 9.1 percent.
The report sparked new fears of a second recession and injected fresh urgency into Obama's efforts to help get the unemployed back into the labor market - and improve his re-election chances. No incumbent in recent times has been re-elected with a jobless rate that high, and polls show the public is losing confidence in Obama's handling of the economy. His approval rating on that issue dropped to a new low of 26 percent in a recent Gallup survey.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the report was disappointing, unacceptable and "further proof that President Obama has failed." Romney is scheduled to get ahead of Obama by outlining his job-creation plan in a speech Tuesday in Nevada, two days before the president addresses Congress.
Tax credits for businesses that hire and spending on school construction and renovation also are expected to be part of Obama's proposal.
Underscoring the political dueling under way over the economy, Obama plans to visit Richmond, Va., on Friday, the day after his speech, on the first of many trips he'll make to rally the public behind his plan. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., one of Obama's fiercest critics, represents part of Richmond.
Obama's broader goal with the speech is to make a sweeping appeal for bipartisan action on the economy by speaking not just to the lawmakers in front of him but also to the public at large. In that sense, the speech will mark a pivot from dealing with long-term deficit reduction to spurring an economic recovery.
Aides say Obama will mount a fall campaign centered on the economy, unveiling different elements of his agenda heading into 2012. If Republicans reject his ideas, the White House wants to use the megaphone of his presidency to enlist the public as an ally, pressure Congress and make the case for his re-election.
"People will see a president who will be laying very significant proposals throughout the fall leading up this next State of the Union" address, Gene Sperling, director of Obama's National Economic Council, told The Associated Press in an interview.
While Obama has said any short-term spending proposals will be paid for over the long term, aides say the speech will not offer details on what deficit reduction measures would be used to offset such spending. The speech also is not expected to include a detailed plan to resolve the housing crisis, a central cause behind the weak economy that has vexed the White House since the beginning of Obama's administration.
Sperling suggested that Obama would address the housing issue separately during the fall.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce unveiled its own jobs plan on Monday. In an open letter to the White House and Congress, the business lobby called for measures to immediately boost employment, including stepped-up road and bridge construction, more domestic oil drilling and temporary tax breaks for corporations.
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.
Darlene Superville can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
GOP candidates in SC vow to carry tea-party banner
By PHILIP ELLIOTT Associated Press
Sep 5, 2011, 9:25 PM EDT
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) --
Pledging fidelity to the Constitution and vowing to carry the tea party's priorities to the White House, the Republicans chasing the GOP's presidential nomination pitched themselves Monday to their party's libertarian activists as the strongest candidates to roll back four years of President Barack Obama's tenure.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said the Obama administration flouted the Constitution to push a political agenda. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota stridently called Obama's policies "unconstitutional" at the same tea party-backed forum on Labor Day. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the third member of his party's top tier, told a separate town hall-style audience earlier in the day that he has a better record on jobs than the president.
With Labor Day marking the unofficial start to the 2012 campaign, the contenders were painting themselves to the tea party during an afternoon forum with Sen. Jim DeMint in his home state - site of the first nominating contest in the South. The event was designed to probe the candidates on their views of spending, taxes and the Constitution - bedrock principles for the tea party activists whose rising clout is likely to shape the nominating process.
"I don't think I've ever seen an administration who has gone further afield from the Constitution ... than the Obama administration, not just with regulation, but with energy policy, with financial regulatory policy and, with the worst example, Obamacare," Romney said, outlining conservatives' broad indictment of Obama's tenure.
It also was a prime opportunity for the candidates to level pointed - though, in many cases, familiar - criticism of Obama.
"The track record we have creating jobs, I'd put up against anyone running for president of the United States, particularly the current resident of the White House," said Perry, whose late entry into the race threatens Romney's one-time aura of inevitability with support from tea partyers.
And Bachmann sought to sustain her status as a movement darling and suitable alternative to Romney. Although she never engaged him directly, her remarks seemed centered on Romney.
Bachmann warned that Obama and Democrats' health care legislation was taking away freedoms and giving Washington abject power.
"They will become a dictator over our lives," she said of federal requirements included in the overhaul that requires Americans to have health insurance. Massachusetts requires a similar mandate.
"This is the foundation for socialized medicine. Make no mistake about it. It will change the face of this nation forever," she warned.
After keeping the tea party at arm's length most of this campaign, Romney appeared at two tea party-related events this holiday weekend, first in New Hampshire on Sunday and then Monday here. He slightly tweaked his pitch and acknowledged critics of Massachusetts' health plan.
"Our bill dealt with 8 percent of our population, the people who weren't insured," Romney said.
"He dealt with 100 percent of American people. He said, `I'm going to change health care for all of you.' It's simply unconstitutional. It's bad law. It's bad medicine. ... It has got to be stopped and I know it better than most."
Aware of the tea party's potential to pick the nominee, all candidates have tailored their pitches to appeal to the libertarian and grassroots activists.
Bachmann, a former federal tax lawyer, called the Constitution "that sacred document" and challenged Obama's understanding of his powers under it. She cited Obama's advisers, whom she called "czars," the Justice Department's decision not to appeal a court's overturning of a federal marriage law, and his immigration policies.
"These are areas where we see unconstitutionality," she said of Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate and former constitutional law lecturer at the University of Chicago.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich played up the founding fathers' writings on liberties during his appearance: "These rights are inalienable. That means no politician, no bureaucrat, no judge can take that away from you."
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a favorite of the GOP's libertarian wing, decried government largesse: "People were supposed to carry guns, not bureaucrats." He also warned against a Washington that gives the Federal Reserve too much power, a favorite rallying cry for his steadfast supporters.
And pizza magnate Herman Cain of Georgia, who does well during these forums with amusing quips but hasn't built a serious campaign organization, again was critical of Washington.
"The idea in Washington, D.C. ... is if you reduce the growth, that's a cut," he said. "That's not a cut. That's deceiving the American people."
Ahead of the forum, Perry spoke at a town hall-style meeting before heading home to Texas in a last-minute schedule change to monitor raging wildfires. He phoned DeMint to apologize for his schedule change; DeMint said Perry needed to be home.
Romney, who had initially planned to bypass the South Carolina forum, changed his schedule last week to join DeMint, whose backing he enjoyed during his first presidential bid.
While DeMint is tremendously popular here in his home state and with his party's tea party faction, he isn't rushing to publicly pick a favorite this time and has suggested he might not back a candidate in the primary.
That's not to say wooing the tea party is without peril.
After Washington's debt showdown this summer, an Associated Press-GfK poll found that 46 percent of adults had an unfavorable view of the tea party, compared with 36 percent just after last November's election.
Associated Press writer Bruce Smith contributed to this report from Myrtle Beach, S.C.
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