(MCT)WASHINGTON _ President Barack Obama urged Congress to end the â€œpolitical circusâ€ and act to help a nation still facing economic hardship, outlining a $447 billion legislative package that includes tax cuts for working families and small businesses and spending to rebuild infrastructure.
The president, in a Thursday evening address to lawmakers in a special joint session, argued that there â€œis nothing controversialâ€ about his plan _ though the price tag was larger than expected and, perhaps, more than the Republican-led Congress will seriously consider.
Obama acknowledged the political prism through which his speech was being viewed. His approval rating is at or near the low point of his presidency, and the Republican campaign to unseat him is in full swing.
â€œBut the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they donâ€™t care about politics,â€ Obama said. â€œThey have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work.
â€œThe people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether weâ€™ll meet ours,â€ he said.
Obama didnâ€™t outline how he would pay for the package, but promised it â€œwill not add to the deficit.â€ His advisors said the administration will outline a â€œdollar for dollarâ€ budget to pay for it.
To a Congress that just emerged from the discordant debt-ceiling debate, the president promised â€œa more ambitious deficit planâ€ that he will release on Sept. 19. Obama said that proposal would include measures to trim back Medicare and Medicaid, ideas that have been controversial among many Democrats.
The jobs plan was almost $150 billion larger than administration officials had previously indicated, helping Obama portray the proposal as bold. Economists said a plan of that scope might have a noticeable impact on the economy very soon after enactment.
But the size of the proposal also could create sticker shock in Congress, where even in advance of the address, many GOP lawmakers were wary of spending money to stimulate the economy, while others may simply prefer to wait to take action for what they hope is a Republican president in 2013.
The White House hopes Americans will rally behind Obamaâ€™s plan and spur Congress to pass enough of the measure to have an effect on the 9.1 percent jobless rate, at least by the time the presidentâ€™s re-election campaign is in full swing.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moodyâ€™s Analytics, forecast that if Obamaâ€™s plan is implemented in its entirety, the jobless rate would fall to roughly 8 percent around the time of the election. If no further action is taken, unemployment would be about 9 percent at end of next year, he said.