For now, President Obama’s jobs bill is dead. His jobs tour, however, is not.
On Monday, less than a week after the Senate blocked his $447 billion American Jobs Act, the president will launch the jobs tour remix when he travels to Asheville, N.C., for a three-day bus tour of North Carolina and Virginia.
White House aides said Obama is working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to break up the various proposals of his jobs package into smaller bills that will be voted on individually. The strategy is aimed at forcing Republicans to either support pieces of the plan or risk being painted as more interested in scoring political points than addressing the economic crisis.
“The Senate vote was the beginning of the fight, not the end,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
During his bus tour, the president will use appearances at a regional airport, a high school, a community college, a YMCA, a firehouse and Langley Air Force Base to keep up the pressure on his adversaries, aides said. First lady Michelle Obama will join the president at Langley on Tuesday to announce a “major private-sector commitment” to hire veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The president will travel through Asheville, Wilkesboro and Guilford, N.C., and Ragsdale, Emporium and Chesterfield, Va., aides said.
“Each day, the president will challenge Congress to get to work this week passing every element of his American Jobs Act piece by piece,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Sunday during a conference call with reporters. “In the president’s view, they need to start doing this work this week.”
Reid, who has said he will begin offering smaller versions of the jobs bill this week, will determine how to proceed legislatively, Earnest said. But, he added, Obama believes the Senate should first take up a proposal in the jobs package aimed at spending $30 billion to hire and retain teachers, as well as police officers and fire fighters.
Republicans have denounced many key provisions of Obama’s jobs plan, especially the new spending initiatives, which include $50 billion for improvements to roads and bridges.
But GOP leaders, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio), have said they might be willing to consider some elements of Obama’s plan, including continuing a payroll tax cut that could mean an additional $1,500 for the average American family, as well as tax breaks for small businesses that hire veterans or unemployed workers.
White House officials have said the president would sign each portion of the jobs package that is voted out of Congress. But, Earnest emphasized, “although Congress is adopting a piece-by-piece approach, the president believes that every single piece should pass and by the end of the day we should have all of the components of the American Jobs Act pass through the Congress.”
Though Obama has said he will take the jobs tour to every corner of the country, he has focused heavily on electoral swing states with an eye on the 2012 election. This week’s trip will bring him close to the home district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), who the administration and Democrats have tried to set up as a boogeyman in the jobs fight.
Obama undertook a three-day bus tour of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota in August; aides said he uses the bus when he wants to reach communities that are hard to get to by plane. The format allows him to spend more time talking with ordinary residents, small-business owners and town officials than he is able to do when he flies Air Force One, aides said.
Asked whether the president would tailor his remarks on the tour to appeal to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, which the Obama camp has eyed as a potential political wedge to use against Republicans, Earnest borrowed some of the “99 percent” movement’s terminology.
“You can anticipate the president will continue to acknowledge the frustration he himself shares about the need for Washington to do more to support our economic recovery,” Earnest said, “and to ensure the interest of 99 percent of Americans is well represented here.”