U.S. President Barack Obama speaks Oct. 16, 2011, at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. With him are, from left, Vice President Joe Biden, his wife Jill and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. UPI/Mike Theiler/Pool | License Photo
ASHEVILLE, N.C., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama told audiences in North Carolina Monday if Republicans don't want his jobs plan they need to explain to Americans why not.
Obama told an enthusiastic young crowd that packed West Wilkes High School in Miller's Creek, N.C., he would be pushing for Congress to approve pieces of his American Jobs Act package in the coming weeks.
"And if they vote against these proposals, if they vote against taking steps that we know will put Americans back to work, they've got to explain not to me, but to you, why they're doing it," the Democratic president said. "They don't have to answer to me, but they do have to answer to you. You sent them there.
"They're going to have to come down here to North Carolina and tell kids why they can't have their teachers back. They're going to have to look construction workers in the eye and tell them why they shouldn't be rebuilding roads and bridges and airports. They're going to have to explain to working families why their taxes are going up while the richest Americans and largest corporations are getting a sweet deal."
Obama then urged them to "give Congress a piece of your mind."
"Tell these members of Congress that they don't work for special interest, they don't work for lobbyists -- they work for you," he said. "Tell them what's at stake here."
While he was greeted with some signs such as "Obey the Constitution," and "No more massive government spending programs. They don't work" as he pulled into town, those in the gym chanted "Fired Up! Ready to go!" "Four more years" and "Pass the bill," referring to Obama's jobs bill that has been waylaid by Senate Republicans.
Schools Superintendent Stephen Laws thanked Obama for federal stimulus spending "that I think saved this country."
After his speech, president then shook hands with students and posed for photos before getting back on his bus and traveling to Greensboro where he was to spend the night.
Earlier, in Ashville, N.C., Obama noted his jobs bill was being broken into smaller, easier to understand chunks.
"What we're going to do is we're going to break up my jobs bill. Maybe they just couldn't understand the whole thing all at once," Obama told a crowd on the first stop of his bus tour in North Carolina and Virginia. "So we're going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation."
This week, he said he was asking Congress to vote one component of the plan that would "put hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the classroom and cops back on the street and firefighters back to work."
"Independent economists, not my economists … have said this jobs bill would create nearly 2 million jobs," Obama said. "It says this bill will help put people back to work and give our economy a boost right away."
Obama cited one poll that indicated 63 percent of Americans support the ideas embraced in his jobs bill.
"So 63 percent of Americans support the jobs bill that I put forward; 100 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against it," Obama said. "That doesn't make any sense, does it?"
Obama noted the Republicans have offered a jobs plan as well, which would "gut regulations … let Wall Street do whatever it wants ... drill more … [and] repeal healthcare reform."
Obama said independent economists indicated the Republican jobs plan wouldn't do much to help the economy and "could actually cost us jobs."
Even with an election 13 months away, Obama said now is time to focus "less on satisfying some wing of the party and more on common sense ideas that we can take to put people to work right now and help the middle class, and help people get into the middle class."