Obama, first lady tout jobs bill in Va.

Oct. 19, 2011 at 9:56 PM
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HAMPTON, Va., Oct. 19 (UPI) -- President Obama and the first lady tag-teamed in Virginia Wednesday, pushing for passage of his stalled jobs bill and for jobs for veterans.

The first couple spoke to an audience at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Va.

The president said he wants to make it easier for companies to hire military veterans.

"You give smaller companies who may be interested in hiring but are having a tough time -- give them a tax break if they hire a veteran. Give them an even bigger tax break if they hire a disabled veteran," Obama said.

So far, Obama said: "Congress hasn't acted on this proposal. But I want you to know that I'm pushing them a little bit. I'm going to keep pushing them a little bit. In the coming weeks, we're going to hold a series of votes in the Senate on individual pieces of my jobs bill. And one of the votes I'm going to urge members of Congress to take is on whether or not they think it's a good idea to give companies an incentive to hire the men and women who have risked their lives for our country. And I'm hopeful we can get both parties on board for this idea."

Obama said when he first proposed the idea in a joint session of Congress, "people stood up and applauded on both sides of the aisle. So when it comes for a vote in the Senate, I expect to get votes from both sides of the aisle. Don't just applaud about it, vote for it. Vote for it."

First lady Michelle Obama spoke before the president, and repeated an announcement she had made earlier in the day, that the American Logistics Association and its affiliates have pledged to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses in the next two years.

"The businesses making this pledge include name brands like Proctor & Gamble, Tyson Foods, Hewlett-Packard -- but also smaller companies like Prime Team Services, which is planning to hire hundreds of military spouses and veterans next year alone," the first lady said.

"And today's announcement really builds on the efforts of businesses and organizations already under way all across this country. Siemens has hired hundreds of veterans already this year. Sears is increasing the number of veterans and military spouses in their workforce by 10 percent. We just made that announcement this week. The Chamber of Commerce has hosted job fairs for veterans in cities across the country.

"And then companies like Kmart and Sam's Club have promised us that if a military spouse who works at their stores has to move to a new duty station, they will do their very best to have a job waiting for them when they arrive," the first lady said.

Before the speech, the presidential bus motorcade stopped at a roadside farmers' market in Hampton called "Wood's Orchard Farm Market," where the first lady bought 10 large pumpkins.

"How many are you going to buy?" the president asked. "You want anything else?"

"No," his wife said, "we'll have enough trouble getting these back." The pumpkins were loaded onto the presidential bus, called Ground Force One.

The president and the first lady also stopped to sip sweet tea with four veterans at Anna's Pizza and Italian Kitchen in a modest Hampton strip mall.

Later Wednesday, Obama traveled to a firehouse in North Chesterfield, Va., near Richmond, the final stop on his bus tour. He again urged support for his stalled jobs bill.

"This is a jobs bill that contains the kind of proposals that in the past, at least, have been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike," Obama said. "It's paid for. It will not add to our deficit. And it's paid for by asking the wealthiest of us -- people like me -- to be able to put in a little bit more so that we can make sure that folks who are struggling get the help they need, and that the economy overall is improving.

"Independent economists have said it will create nearly 2 million jobs," he added. "That's not my opinion. That's not the opinion of people who work for me and have to tell me what I want to hear. This is the opinion of independent economists."

Obama returned to Washington Wednesday afternoon, ending his three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia.

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