President Barack Obama speaks about exports, jobs, and the economy, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FLETCHER, N.C. (AP) - Railing against Republicans, President
Barack Obama on Monday pushed for a jobs package that Congress is splintering into pieces, with Senate Democrats planning to start
with a plan to help states hire teachers, police and firefighters.
In campaign mode on the road, Obama accused Republicans senators of saying no to helping Americans.
With the president's plan for one big bill now dead, the Senate
began moving to take up parts of it. Yet given that the Senate is
likely to be consumed this week with an overdue spending bill - and
then is taking a vacation next week - any votes on portions of the
jobs legislation may not take place until November.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid planned to announce on Monday
that the chamber would move first on the aid to states. Obama, on a
bus tour through the politically crucial states of North Carolina
and Virginia, made a coordinated push for that part of his bill and
mocked Republicans for forcing a piece-by-piece approach to his
Republicans in the Senate rejected consideration of his whole
$447 billion plan last week.
"Maybe they just couldn't understand the whole thing at once,
so we're going to break it up into bite-size pieces," Obama said
from his first stop in western North Carolina before getting on his
black-tinted bus and heading east across the state.
Obama is pitching a $35 billion proposal of aid to states, and
spokesman Jay Carney said the White House anticipates action "very
But the state aid package faces long odds on Capitol Hill.
It is a non-starter in the GOP-controlled House and is sure to
face a vote-blocking filibuster in the Senate, which would require
60 votes to overcome. Last year, when Senate Democrats controlled
59 votes, moderate Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine voted with Democrats to pass a $26 billion state aid package. But with their numbers down to 53, Democrats appear stuck.
Outside Asheville, N.C., a supportive crowd broke into a chant
of "four more years" for Obama. Said the president in response:
"I appreciate the four more years, but right now I'm thinking
about the next thirteen months."
Republicans denounced the bus trip as nothing more than a
taxpayer-funded campaign trip through two must-win states to try to
bolster Obama's standing for the 2012 election.
The president kept up his strategy of taking his case to voters,
saying a recent poll showed public backing for his proposals.
He told his audience that when Republicans in the Senate voted
against his bill, "essentially, they said no to you."
Obama spoke from an airport outside Asheville that he said could
benefit from his $50 billion proposal to help fix airports, roads,
bridges and other infrastructure.
After his remarks and a round of hand-shakes, Obama headed east
on Interstate 40, but soon turned off to have lunch at a barbecue
restaurant in Marion, population 8,075, where he ordered takeout
and chatted with patrons about plans to boost U.S. exports.
From Marion, the bus caravan route took Obama uphill through
Blue Ridge foothills dappled with fall reds and oranges. At a
general store in Boone, near Appalachian State University, he
shopped for Halloween candy, loading up on peppermint patties and
candy corn. "On Halloween, the first lady doesn't mind," he
Obama was traveling on the all-black touring bus he first used
on a similar road trip in August, rolling through Minnesota, Iowa
and Illinois. The Secret Service purchased it for $1.1 million.
House Republicans also touted legislation due for a vote next
week to repeal a law that would require the withholding of 3
percent of payments to government contractors. The measure was
enacted in 2005 by a GOP-controlled Congress to try to ensure that
contractors couldn't duck their taxes.
While Obama has pledged to travel the country pitching his plans
to get Americans back to work, his stops have focused heavily on
political swing states, underscoring the degree to which what
happens with the economy is tied to Obama's re-election prospects.
Despite Obama's calls for urgency, it appears the lawmakers may
not take up individual components of the president's bill until
November, at the earliest. The Senate is set to debate
appropriations bills this week, and lawmakers have a scheduled
break at the end of the month.
The president will also speak at community colleges, high
schools and a firehouse as he travels through North Carolina and
Virginia this week.
Both North Carolina and Virginia are traditionally Republican
leaning, but changing demographics and a boost in voter turnout
among young people and African-Americans helped Obama carry them in 2008.
But nearly three years after his historic election, the
president's approval ratings in both states are sagging, in line
with the national trend.
A Quinnipiac University poll out earlier this month put Obama's
approval rating in Virginia at 45 percent, with 52 percent
disapproving. The same poll showed 83 percent of Virginians were
dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In North Carolina,
Obama has a 42 percent approval rating, according to an Elon
University poll conducted this month. Most national polls put
Obama's approval rating in the mid- to low-40s.
The conservative advocacy group American Crossroads planned to
run television ads in both states during Obama's trip, criticizing
the president's jobs proposals as a second round of stimulus
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Andrew Taylor and Ben
Feller in Washington, Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va., and Tom Breen in
Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserve