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Obama issues jobs bill ultimatum to GOP

U.S. President Barack Obama takes a question during a press conference at the White House in Washington, Oct. 6, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
U.S. President Barack Obama takes a question during a press conference at the White House in Washington, Oct. 6, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama gave Republicans an ultimatum to pass his $447 billion jobs bill or be punished by voters in next year's elections.

"If Congress does something, then I can't run against a do-nothing Congress," Obama said at a news conference Thursday, a day before the U.S. Labor Department was to release September unemployment figures, with the jobless rate hovering above 9 percent. "If Congress does nothing, then it's not a matter of me running against them -- I think the American people will run them out of town, because they are frustrated, and they know we need to do something big and something bold."

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As Obama spoke, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told a Washington audience "nothing has disappointed me more than what's happened over the last five weeks, to watch the president of the United States give up on governing, give up on leading and just spend time campaigning."

"We're legislating. He's campaigning. It's very disappointing," he told the Washington Ideas Forum, sponsored by The Atlantic magazine.

House Republican leaders said they wouldn't vote on Obama's overall bill but would consider some elements of it.

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"We're not going to bring up the president's bill in whole, because we don't believe in raising taxes and in more stimulus spending," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor R-Va., said on the House floor Thursday. "But we are going to take the parts that we can agree on."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday Obama would accept any of his proposals that Republicans would pass "provided that they're paid for in an acceptable and fair way." But Obama would then "turn around and demand the rest of the bill" be passed, Carney said.

Obama's bill would cut the payroll tax for employees and employers, spend money on transportation and infrastructure and send aid to state and local governments, including money to hire teachers and refurbish schools.

Republicans say they don't like some of these measures and oppose Obama's proposal to pay for the package by raising taxes on some corporations and on families with taxable income of $250,000 or more a year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved this week to scrap the tax measures and instead proposed a 5.6 percent surtax on people earning more than $1 million a year.

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Obama said Thursday he was "comfortable" with the idea, which is projected to raise $445 billion to $450 billion and which Obama said would ask "millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share."

He called on the news media to take a stand on whether the GOP was really offering any real jobs plan of its own.

"Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is if they're opposed to the American Jobs Act. And have it scored, have it assessed by the same independent economists that have assessed our jobs plan," he said. "These independent economists say that we could grow the economy as much as 2 percent, and as many as 1.9 million workers would be back on the job. I think it would be interesting to have them do a similar assessment."

Macroeconomic Advisers, a St. Louis firm the U.S. Federal Reserve often uses, projects Obama's jobs plan could increase economic growth 1.25 percent and add 1.3 million jobs next year. Moody's Analytics, another economic-research firm, estimates it would increase growth 2 percent and add up to 1.9 million jobs.

"Our economy really needs a jolt right now," Obama said.

"This is not a game -- this is not the time for the usual political gridlock," he said. "The problems Europe is having today could have a very real effect on our economy at a time when it's already fragile. But this jobs bill can help guard against another downturn if the situation in Europe gets any worse. It will boost economic growth; it will put people back to work."

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