Milwaukee : A combative President Barack Obama rolled out a long-term jobs program Monday that would exceed $50 billion to rebuild roads, railways and runways, and coupled it with a blunt campaign-season assault on Republicans for causing Americans` hard economic times.
GOP leaders instantly assailed Obama`s proposal as an ineffective one that would simply raise already excessive federal spending. Many congressional Democrats are also likely to be reluctant to boost expenditures and increase federal deficits just weeks before elections that will determine control of Congress.
Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, cautioned, "If we are going to get anything done, Republican cooperation, which has been all but non-existent recently, will be necessary."
That left the plan with low, if not impossible, odds of becoming law this year. When Congress returns from summer recess in mid-September, it is likely to remain in session for only a few weeks before lawmakers return home to campaign for re-election.
Administration officials said that even if Congress quickly approved the program, it would not produce jobs until sometime next year. That means the proposal`s only pre-election impact may be a political one as the White House tries to demonstrate to voters that it is working to boost the economy and create jobs.
At a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee, Obama said Republicans are betting that between now and the Nov. 2 elections, Americans will forget the Republican economic policies that led to the recession. He said Republicans have opposed virtually everything he has done to help the economy, and have proposed solutions that have only made the problem worse.
"That philosophy didn`t work out so well for middle-class families all across America," Obama told a cheering crowd at a labor gathering. "It didn`t work out so well for our country. All it did was rack up record deficits and result in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
He said Repubicans have consistently opposed his economic proposals and seem to be running on a slogan of "No, we can`t," playing off his 2008 presidential campaign mantra of "Yes we can."
Republicans made clear that Obama should not expect any help from them.
The House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio, added "We don`t need more government `stimulus` spending. We need to end Washington Democrats` out-of-control spending spree, stop their tax hikes, and create jobs by eliminating the job-killing uncertainty that is hampering our small businesses."
Administration officials are hunting broadly for ways to revive the economy. But they are likely to drop a separate proposal to renew a law exempting companies from paying Social Security taxes on any unemployed workers they hire, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision was not final.
Casual in brown slacks and open-collar white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, Obama took a populist tack in his speech, mixing attacks on Republicans with praise for working-class and middle-class Americans.
He also acknowledged that the past eight months of modest private-sector job growth hasn`t been enough to bring down the unemployment rate. He said economic problems facing families today are "more serious than ever," and seemed to ask the audience in Milwaukee - and voters nationwide - for patience.