Obama Jobs Plan: Second Time's a Charm?

Brendan Smialowski/AFP
Brendan Smialowski/AFP

(The Root) — Not-so-distant history repeated itself on Friday as President Obama urged Congress to pass his legislative jobs proposals.


The president first presented this plan, the American Jobs Act, before a joint session of Congress last September. While Congress agreed to pass a few parts of the bill — including an expansion of the payroll-tax cut, and a bill that offers tax credits to employers for hiring long-term unemployed veterans — lawmakers ignored most of it.

Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration launched the "We Can't Wait" initiative, which focused on a series of smaller executive actions that could be taken without Congress. The executive approach, however, is limited and didn't create meaningful change — as evidenced, most recently, by this month's discouraging jobs report. So on Friday the president, once again, appealed to Congress to give his policies a try.


"If Congress had passed it in full, we'd be on track having a million more Americans working this year," Obama told reporters. "But they left most of the jobs plan just sitting there, and in light of the headwinds that we're facing right now, I urge them to reconsider."

Arguing that the policies he outlined back in September could still be implemented right away, he gave a refresher on some of the previously discarded provisions:

One of the biggest weaknesses has been state and local governments which have laid off 450,000 Americans. These are teachers and cops and firefighters. Congress should pass a bill putting them back to work right now, giving help to the states so that those layoffs are not occurring.

In addition, since the housing bubble burst we've got more than a million construction workers out of work … We could be putting a lot of people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, some of our schools.

… Instead of just talking a good game about job creators, Congress should give the small business owners that actually create most of new jobs in America a tax break for hiring more workers.

That said, it seems doubtful that Congress will move on any of these proposals. The last time around, a Republican filibuster killed the American Jobs Act in the Senate. The House wouldn't even bring it to a vote. The Republican opposition was fueled by a disagreement over paying for the bill with a new surtax on personal income over $1 million, arguing that this is no time to raise taxes on anybody, even millionaires. And instead of more government spending, they argued that a better tack would be to slash more taxes and focus on balancing the budget.

Nine months later, any chance of the same proposals passing hinges on a change of heart.


"We know [these ideas] can work," the president said, adding that they also had support from independent economists. "If Congress decides, despite all that, that they aren't going to do anything about this simply because it's an election year, then they should explain to the American people why."

Cynthia Gordy is The Root's senior political correspondent.

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