The U.S. jobless rate mired at 9.1 percent, President Barack Obama is expected to call Thursday for extending a payroll tax cut for workers, more help for the unemployed and special tax breaks for those who hire them, as well as creating jobs to repair roads and bridges.
The speech â€” to be delivered before a joint session of a Congress that has shown little interest in enacting Obamaâ€™s initiatives â€” carries huge import for Obama. It comes a week after a dismal August jobs report showed zero job growth and reignited fears that the U.S. economy may be heading for another dive. It also comes as national polls show Obama with the lowest job ratings of his presidency as the 2012 election campaign heats up.
But polls also show abysmally low numbers for Congress and especially for Republicans there, and White House officials said that Obama plans to show a frustrated electorate that he has a plan and is pressing Congress to act on it quickly.
â€œThe American people outside of the Beltway are tired of excuses,â€ White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. â€œThey want action. And there will be no reason that Congress canâ€™t act on this unless politics gets in the way.â€
At least three Republicans â€” South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Reps. Joe Walsh of Illinois and Paul Broun of Georgia â€” have told reporters they donâ€™t plan to attend Obamaâ€™s speech.
Broun plans to watch from his office and hold a â€œtwitter town hallâ€ with constituents. Walsh told MSNBC that Obama is â€œabusing his powerâ€ by addressing the joint session.
But there appeared to be no organized GOP boycott. Asked if he believed Republicans should attend, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said, â€œThe speaker has invited the president and I will be anxiously awaiting his message and will be there.â€ As for a boycott, he added, â€œI donâ€™t think there is much evidence that that is the case.â€
The president is expected to call for:
- Extending a payroll tax holiday for all wage earners;
- Creating an infrastructure bank that would put unemployed construction workers back to work
rebuilding aging bridges, roads, schools and airports;
- And enacting tax incentives for companies that add new employees.
A senior Treasury Department official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity as a matter of department policy, said Wednesday that Obamaâ€™s plan also would include help for the long-term unemployed. Almost 43 percent of the 14 million Americans who are officially unemployed have been out of work for more than six months.
Obama is also said to be considering expanding payroll-tax relief for employers, along with programs that would help school districts retain teachers.
The price tag for Obamaâ€™s proposals was widely reported to be $300 billion, but the White House refused Wednesday to confirm any numbers. Carney insisted, however, that Obama would include measures to pay for the proposal and that it would not contribute to the deficit.