President Barack Obama, in a sharp challenge to Republicans, proposed paying for his costly new jobs plan on Monday with tax hikes on the wealthy that Republicans have already emphatically rejected, setting the stage for a likely new fight with Congress.
By daring Republicans anew to reject the tax increases on rich Americans and corporations, Mr. Obama could gain a talking point as the 2012 presidential campaign moves forward, if not a legislative victory.
There stakes are high in the jobs plan battle as Mr. Obama faces a tough re-election fight with the economy stalled, unemployment stuck at 9.1 percent and polls showing deep public unhappiness with his leadership on the economy.
Some Democrats have grown frustrated by what they see as Mr. Obama buckling to Republicans in talks on taxes and spending rather than fighting to maintain key safety net programs long favoured by his party.
But the jobs plan has brought out a more combative Mr. Obama. Flanked at the White House by workers he said the legislation would help, Mr. Obama declared Monday, “This is the bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays.” He sent it to Capitol Hill saying, “The only thing that’s stopping it is politics.”
The president’s proposal drew criticism from House Speaker John Boehner, who had previously responded in cautious but somewhat receptive tones to the $447 billion jobs plan that includes payroll tax cuts for workers and employers and new spending that Mr. Obama first proposed in an address to Congress last Thursday.
“It would be fair to say this tax increase on job creators is the kind of proposal both parties have opposed in the past. We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.
Mr. Obama would pay for his plan largely by raising about $400 billion by eliminating certain deductions, including on charitable contributions that can be claimed by wealthy taxpayers. Mr. Obama has proposed that in the past -- to help pay for his health care overhaul, for example -- and it’s been shot down by Republican lawmakers along with some Democrats.
At a Rose Garden event Monday, Mr. Obama brandished his jobs bill in the air and surrounded himself with police officers, fire-fighters, teachers, construction workers and others he said would be helped by it. Adopting a newly combative tone that’s been welcomed by dispirited Democrats, Mr. Obama demanded immediate action on the legislation, which the White House sent to Capitol Hill Monday afternoon.
“Instead of just talking about America’s job creators, let’s actually do something for America’s job creators.”
Mr. Obama told of reading a quotation in a newspaper article from a Republican congressional aide who questioned why Republicans should work with Mr. Obama since the result might just be to help the president politically. “That was very explicit,” Mr. Obama said.
Buck, the Boehner spokesman, said the anonymous quote cited by the president didn’t reflect the view of Republican leadership.
And even as Mr. Obama was accusing Republicans of playing politics, he and his Democratic allies were marshalling an aggressive political response of their own.
Mr. Obama was travelling to Boehner’s home state of Ohio Tuesday to promote his jobs plan, and following that with a trip Wednesday to North Carolina, a traditionally Republican state he won in 2008.
He was getting backup from the Democratic National Committee, which announced a television ad campaign starting Monday to promote Mr. Obama’s jobs plans in key swing and early-voting states and to call on voters to pressure their lawmakers for support.
In an appearance later Monday with his aides on five African-American news websites, Mr. Obama suggested that even a legislative loss for his plan could translate into a political win for him.
“I need people to be out there promoting this and pushing this and making sure that everybody understands the details of what this would mean, so that one of two things happens. Either Congress gets it done, or if Congress doesn’t get it done people know exactly what’s holding it up,” the president said.
The jobs package would combine tax cuts for workers and employers by reducing the Social Security payroll tax, with spending elements including more money to hire teachers, rebuild schools and pay unemployment benefits. There are also tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.
The White House, which has gotten burned in the past by making overly optimistic job-creation predictions, has avoided estimating how many jobs the package would create. But in an interview Monday on NBC News, Obama embraced an estimate from an outside economist, Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, and said the bill “could mean an additional 2 million jobs.”
The payment method the White House announced Monday would consist of
-- $405 billion from limiting the itemized deductions for charitable contributions and other deductions that can be taken by individuals making over $200,000 a year and families making over $250,000;
-- $41 billion from closing loopholes for oil and gas companies;
-- $18 billion from requiring fund managers to pay higher taxes on certain income;
-- $3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
White House Budget Director Jacob Lew said that Obama will also include those tax proposals in a broader debt-cutting package he plans to submit next week to a congressional “super committee” charged with finding $1.2 trillion in savings later this year. He said that the super committee would have the option of accepting the payment mechanisms for the jobs bill proposed by Obama, or proposing new ones.
Republicans have indicated they’re receptive to supporting Mr. Obama’s proposed payroll tax cut and finding a way to extend unemployment benefits, though many have rejected Mr. Obama’s planned new spending. Mr. Obama’s new proposal on Monday to pay for it all by raising taxes without any proposals to cut spending is unlikely to win him any new Republican support for any element of his plan.
“I sure hope that the president is not suggesting that we pay for his proposals with a massive tax increase at the end of 2012 on job creators that we’re actually counting on to reduce unemployment,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.