Stepping up the partisan battle over his jobs bill, President Obama called on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday to hold a vote on the $447 billion plan, and Mr. Cantor’s office replied that the president isn’t providing “serious leadership.”
“Right now, he won’t even let this jobs bill have a vote,” the president said of Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, in a speech during a visit to Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas. “What’s the problem — do they not have the time? They just had a week off.”
Referring to an out-of-work teacher with him on the stage, Mr. Obama added, “Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas and look Kim Russell in the eye and tell her why she doesn’t deserve to be back in the classroom, doing what she loves, helping our kids. Come tell her students why they don’t deserve to have their teacher back.”
The congressional reception for Mr. Obama’s much-touted jobs package has been caught in the political crossfire, with even the president’s fellow Democrats not exactly rushing to take up the measure. Senate Democrats were even forced to block a parliamentary move by GOP leaders to bring the bill up for an immediate vote Tuesday, as they try to gauge support in their caucus for various parts of the president’s plan.
Mr. Cantor said Monday the House would not consider the jobs bill as an all-or-nothing proposition. His communications director responded to the president’s taunts by asking whether Mr. Obama would promise not to veto the GOP’s own jobs plan, which calls for fewer federal regulations and expanded oil drilling, if Congress sent it to his desk.
“Would he travel district to district and explain why he’d block such common-sense ideas to create jobs?” said Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring. “House Republicans have different ideas on how to grow the economy and create jobs, but that shouldn’t prevent us from trying to find areas of common ground with the president.”
He said Mr. Cantor had given the president his word that the House will pass “portions” of the jobs bill next month.
The president, who is increasingly moving into campaign mode, nevertheless targeted Mr. Cantor in the midst of a daylong trip in which he held four fundraisers in Texas and Missouri. Simultaneously, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager sent an email to millions of supporters asking them to bombard Republican lawmakers with Twitter messages in support of the jobs bill.
“Eric Cantor is out there actually bragging that they won’t even put the jobs package up for a vote — ever,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “They’re willing to cost you and any other American your job, or your chance at a new job, because they think that doing nothing won’t cost them theirs.”
In his speeches, Mr. Obama doesn’t tell audiences that Senate Democrats also resisted bringing his jobs bill up for an expedited vote. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, has said Democrats so far lack the votes to pass the plan.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber, led the effort to try to force a vote, which presumably would have resulted in a humiliating defeat for the White House.
“I’d like to give him that vote,” Mr. McConnell said.
The Senate is debating a bill that would push for compensatory tariffs on exports from countries that manipulate their currency which is designed to punish China. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that bill has been waiting for years, and called the Republicans’ effort to move to the jobs bill a “charade.”
The president urged the audience in Mesquite to contact lawmakers as well. The proposal includes tax breaks for companies that hire the unemployed and veterans, and for payroll-tax cuts.