Payroll taxes: keystone of Obama jobs plan
Payroll taxes would be slashed for workers and employers, under the Obama proposal. Besides payroll taxes, the plan calls for $105 billion in public works and $50 billion in renewed unemployment benefits.
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Obama, facing a tough re-election fight next year, looked to stem the eroding confidence in his leadership as the mood of Americans darkens and emboldened Republican presidential challengers assail his record.
The newest and boldest element of Obama's plan would slash the payroll tax for the Social Security pension program both for tens of millions of workers and for employers, too. It also includes $105 billion in public works projects and the renewal of $50 billion in unemployment benefits for about 6 million Americans at risk of losing jobless insurance.
Obama did not venture an estimate as to how many jobs his plan would create. He promised repeatedly that his plan would be paid for, but never said how, pledging to release those details soon.
"This plan is the right thing to do right now," Obama said after a divided body rose in warm unison to greet him. "You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country."
His message was unmistakable to the point of repetition, as he told Congress more than 15 times in one way or another to act quickly. That was meant as a direct challenge by a Democratic president to the Republicans running the House of Representatives to get behind his plan, especially on tax cuts, or be tarred as standing in the way.
Obama will likely have a hard time getting much of his plan through Congress. Republicans control the House of Representatives and can use procedural tactics to block bills in the Senate.
Beyond their ideological opposition to Obama's plans, Republicans would seem hesitant to hand Obama a major legislative victory that could boost his re-election prospects.
Even before the speech, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, described Obama's expected ideas as retreads, saying: "This isn't a jobs plan. It's a re-election plan."
The House leader, Speaker John Boehner, was more conciliatory, though made no promises. He said Obama's ideas would be considered but the president should give heed to Republicans' as well. "It's my hope that we can work together," he said.
Obama received a warm response in the House chamber, but then the usual political pattern took hold: Republicans often sitting in silence on the applause lines that had Democrats roaring.