Declaring himself “a warrior for the middle class,” President Obama traveled Thursday to a bridge that connects Ohio to Kentucky — the homes of the two top Republicans in Congress — and said they have the power to kill or pass his jobs-stimulus plan.
After three days in New York working on international issues, Mr. Obama stepped back into his domestic travel schedule, which has increased as he’s toured the country demanding Congress adopt his plan to fund infrastructure and enact temporary tax breaks for lower-income earners, while raising taxes on high-income taxpayers.
And he defended himself against Republicans who accuse him of a “class-warfare” campaign.
“You know what? If asking a billionaire to pay their fair share of taxes, to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare, then you know what? I’m a warrior for the middle class,” Mr. Obama said. “The only warfare I’ve seen is the battle against the middle class over the last 10, 15 years.”
The president chose as his backdrop the Brent Spence Bridge, which carried Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River, connecting Cincinnati, the home of House Speaker John A. Boehner, to Kentucky, the home of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ahead of the president’s trip, the two leaders accused Mr. Obama of focusing on politics rather than on working with them to find common ground.
“Now is not the time for the president to go into campaign mode,” Mr. Boehner told reporters.
Mr. Obama’s bill raises taxes by $467 billion over 10 years to pay for new spending and temporary tax breaks over the next two years. Included in the spending is aid for public employees and expanded infrastructure spending.
The Brent Spence Bridge has been slated for refurbishment or replacement for years, though Mr. Obama’s bill doesn’t specifically include any money for it. The White House told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the money would go to states and localities who could determine where to spend it.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president that the bridge was “symbolic and representative of crumbling infrastructure across the country.”
Mr. McConnell said his constituents have heard promises about spending before. But he said the disgraced solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra got more money from Mr. Obama’s first $825 billion stimulus bill than the state of Kentucky did to build roads and bridges.
“I mean, how many stimulus bills do we have to pass before these bridges get fixed? How many Solyndras do we have to finance?” Mr. McConnell said.
Mr. Obama said there’s a general consensus that infrastructure can produce jobs, and said the other spending and tax cuts he wants have had bipartisan support.
But the president acknowledged there has been bipartisan opposition to the tax increases he’s proposed to pay for his bill. He framed the choice for members of Congress as a choice between the wealthy on one hand, and construction workers, teachers and small businesses on the other.