Hours before the Senate was expected to reject his $447 billion jobs bill, President Obama said Tuesday that lawmakers faced “a moment of truth” in dealing with the troubled U.S. economy.
“Today is the day when every American will find out exactly where their senator stands on this jobs bill,” Mr. Obama told an audience at a union electricians’ training center in Pittsburgh, Pa. “The Senate should pass it today.”
But the vote tonight on a procedural step is expected to go against the president’s package, with all Republicans and even a few Democrats planning to kill the proposal in its present form. Many lawmakers say they are opposed to the tax increases on wealthier Americans that would pay for the plan.
Mr. Obama has lobbied hard for his plan and pointedly criticized Republicans for blocking its passage. But he suggested Tuesday in a meeting with members of his private sector advisory board that he was ready to move to Plan B and try to get at least portions of the package through Congress if the entire plan is rejected.
“I don’t know how Congress will respond to the overall package, but our expectation is if they don’t pass the whole package we’re going to break it up into constituent parts,” the president told members of his jobs council in Pittsburgh.
The proposal, introduced by Mr. Obama shortly after Labor Day, would cut payroll taxes, give businesses incentives for hiring the unemployed, extend unemployment benefits and boost spending on construction projects for schools, roads and bridges. The president says it will help reduce the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.
Republican lawmakers say they are willing to consider some aspects of the president’s proposal, such as payroll tax cuts, but they also favor other measures such as cutting onerous regulations and expanding domestic oil and gas production.
In his last-minute pitch before the vote, Mr. Obama said Tuesday in Pittsburgh that more than 25 percent of the bridges in Pennsylvania are structurally deficient, and that his plan would put construction workers back on the job repairing some of those spans.
“Why would any senator say ‘no’ to that?” he asked.
The president, as he has done frequently in promoting the measure, lamented the status of U.S. infrastructure.
“We used to be the envy of the world,” Mr. Obama said. “We used to have the best stuff.”
He urged people to contact senators to tell them to support the legislation.
“This is gut-check time,” Mr. Obama said. “I need your help. Let Congress know who they work for. Tell them the time for gridlock and games is over.”
Mr. Obama is also traveling today to Orlando, where he will hold several fundraisers. While in Florida, the president is expected to meet with several union workers to drive home the point about who will be affected by the Senate’s failure to approve the jobs bill.
”It seems like an appropriate thing to do on decision day in the United States Senate,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president. “For the vast majority of Republicans, they have a pretty significant decision to make.”