WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seeking to jolt the economy, President Barack Obama will propose new ideas to create jobs and help the struggling poor and middle class in a major speech after Labor Day. And then he will try to seize political advantage by spending the fall pressuring Congress to act on his plan.
Obama’s plan is likely to contain a mix of tax cuts, jobs-boosting construction projects and steps to help the long-term unemployed, a senior administration official told The Associated Press. The official emphasized that Obama’s proposals would be fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks and still supports, like his idea of an “infrastructure bank” to finance construction jobs.
On a related front, Obama will also present a specific plan to cut the staggering national debt and to pay for the cost of his new short-term economic ideas. His version will challenge the new “supercommittee” of Congress to go beyond its goal of $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.
Confirming the deficit-reduction part of his plan directly, Obama told a rural town hall crowd in Illinois on Wednesday: “I don’t think it’s good enough for us to just do it part way. If we’re going to do it, let’s go ahead and fix it.”
Obama’s major economic speech will come right after the Sept. 5 Labor Day holiday. Republicans were underwhelmed.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said via Twitter that Obama could scrap the speech and just hand over a detailed plan to Congress. “Seriously, just drop it in the mail. Podium not required,” Buck’s tweet said.
Obama will seek to use his economic proposals as leverage against Republicans in Congress, hoping to show a nation disgusted with gridlock that he is the one trying to get results. Obama’s re-election campaign and the White House are also sure to use any specific ideas from the president as a way to blunt attacks from the Republicans hoping to run against him in next year’s presidential election.
Already, Obama has been previewing his line of attack.
“My attitude is, get it done,” he said in one Iowa town hall on Monday. “And if they (lawmakers) don’t get it done, then we’ll be running against a Congress that’s not doing anything for the American people, and the choice will be very stark and will be very clear.”
In Illinois on Wednesday, Obama is likely to touch on his economic plans during the final leg of a campaign-themed Midwest bus tour.
Republican White House contender Mitt Romney, campaigning in New Hampshire, needled Obama for showing up with too little and too late on the economy.
“But we appreciate the fact that he’s going to devote some time to it,” Romney said. “Not just going to be on the bus tour, not just going to be vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, but giving some thought to the American people.”
Meanwhile, Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor prodded Obama to work with them. In an opinion piece published in USA Today, they focused on cutting taxes, easing regulations and finding new energy sources, and said GOP jobs bills now languish in the Democratic-led Senate.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer confirmed that Obama would release a package of economic initiatives and push Congress to act on them in early September.
The official who disclosed details on Obama’s jobs and deficit plans spoke on condition of anonymity because Obama has not yet disclosed them. No final decisions on the economic package have been made.
Seeking re-election in a dispiriting economic time for the nation, Obama’s rollout plan allows him to come into September swinging after one of the roughest periods of his presidency.
The economy has improved from the deep recession Obama inherited, but growth and hopes have stalled.
The unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent. No president in recent history has been re-elected with a jobless rate nearly that high.
Obama’s economic team has been hashing out the new package since he and Congress struck a last-minute debt deal in late July to prevent a debilitating government default.
As president, Obama is under unparalleled pressure to start showing more economic progress. His own job is expected to depend on it.
Nearly 14 million people are unemployed. Many millions more have given up looking for jobs or haven’t found a way to move from part-time to full-time work.
The administration official would not offer details about the tax cuts Obama is likely to propose for the middle class.
They are expected to be separate from the extension of the payroll tax cut for employees that Obama has lobbied for by the day. Obama also has promoted a familiar list of other ideas, including patent reform and three major trade deals. And he has pushed for longer benefits for the chronically unemployed.
As for debt reduction, Obama is trying to have some say over the highly influential committee charged with recommending major changes fast.
That 12-person panel of Republicans and Democrats will start work in September on coming up with - by Nov. 23 - $1.5 trillion in savings over the coming decades. If not, or if Congress fails to approve the committee’s plans, automatic spending cuts that both parties oppose would kick in across the government.
Obama’s plan will be bigger.
By how much isn’t clear, but he has already envisioned $4 trillion in cuts over a slightly longer period of time.
He pressed again Wednesday for a package that reduces the deficit by raising taxes on wealthier people, not just by cutting spending. He said he was concerned that Boehner has already said the members he appointed to the special debt-cutting committee won’t consider raise taxes.
“Everything’s going to be on the table,” Obama insisted, although he has little say over whether Congress goes that route.