With yet another part of his jobs package on the line in Congress on Thursday, President Obama traveled across Washington on Wednesday to press his case — and claimed the support of the Almighty for his plans.
Mr. Obama was poking fun at a resolution House Republicans pushed through their chamber earlier this week affirming support for “In God We Trust” as the U.S. motto. The president said with unemployment still at more than 9 percent and the economy struggling, Congress has better things to do with its time.
“That’s not putting people back to work,” Mr. Obama said. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”
On Thursday, the Senate will vote on two different proposals sponsors say would do just that.
The first, proposed by Democrats, would call for spending $50 billion over the next 10 years on infrastructure, and pay for it by a new surtax of 0.7 percent on those making more than $1 million a year. The second bill, sponsored by Republicans, would extend current highway building authority for two more years. The Republican bill also requires the White House to cut discretionary spending during the next decade.
Democrats’ infrastructure bill is unlikely to do any better than Mr. Obama’s broader $447 billion jobs plan, which couldn’t muster even a majority in the Senate and has been rejected by House Republican leaders.
Still to come is a vote on a bill to repeal a 3 percent withholding requirement on all payments to government contractors — something businesses say would be a huge burden if it took effect as scheduled in 2013. The House passed that bill by a wide margin last week, and Senate Republicans have pushed it to the Senate floor, but have not yet tried to force a vote.
It’s one of a series of bills House Republicans have dubbed the “forgotten 15” — measures that the GOP says could spur jobs and that have passed the House but have stalled in the Senate. Many of those bills cut government regulations or overturn Obama administration actions.
“Unlike the president and the Democrats who run the Senate, House Republicans are designing legislation to pass, rather than fail,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the upper chamber as he chided his Democratic counterparts to take up the House legislation. “They want to make a difference rather than a point. And the only thing keeping these bills from becoming law is the fact that Democrats in the Senate won’t take them up.”
The president made his pitch for congressional action while standing on the D.C. side of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which links two of the region’s wealthiest regions, Georgetown and Arlington. It’s one of the five Potomac bridges that connect Virginia with the District or Maryland, and Mr. Obama said it needs help.
He also said infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue, pointing to comments from to Republicans who said they back a national program to build roads and bridges.
“OK, so if the speaker of the House, the Republican leader in the Senate, all the Democrats, all say that this is important to do, why aren’t we doing it? What’s holding us back?” he said.
But such resolutions are also standard business for Congress, and Mr. Obama himself sponsored some during his brief time in the Senate, including twice seeing through a resolution declaring National Summer Learning Day.