WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is visiting a school undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation to sell his proposal for creating more jobs. And it’s no coincidence that the school is in Ohio, the home state of House Speaker John Boehner, a critic of the president’s proposal to tax the rich to pay for his plan.
The visit Tuesday to Columbus, Ohio, is designed to promote $25 billion in school modernization and infrastructure spending that’s part of the $447 billion jobs bill Obama sent Monday to Congress.
Boehner’s district is farther west, but Obama will be in Republican territory in a key swing state for the 2012 presidential election. Boehner’s office had no comment on Obama’s visit.
After receiving the president’s jobs proposal politely after he unveiled it before Congress last week, Boehner and other Republicans grew notably more skeptical Monday once the White House announced plans to pay for the costly measure entirely with tax increases on the rich and corporations that the GOP has already rejected.
The bulk of the payment comes from nearly $400 billion from limiting the deductions on charitable contributions and other items that wealthy people can take. There’s also $40 billion from closing oil and gas loopholes, $18 billion from hiking taxes on certain income made by fund managers, and $3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
Obama has said he’s asking the wealthy to pay their fair share, and he called on Congress to pass the bill without delay.
“The only thing that’s stopping it is politics,” Obama said Monday. “And we can’t afford these same political games. Not now.”
Boehner and other Republicans questioned whether Obama was really intent on bipartisanship if he was asking them to swallow tax hikes they already opposed, without any spending cuts.
“We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
The jobs package would offer tax cuts for workers and employers by reducing the Social Security payroll tax. Spending elements include more money to hire teachers, rebuild schools and pay unemployment benefits. There are also tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.
Obama’s top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said Tuesday that the White House wants Congress to act on the entire bill rather than approaching it piecemeal. “We’re not in a negotiation to break up the package,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It’s not an a la carte menu.”
But Obama has acknowledged that Congress may not give him everything he is asking for in the jobs bill.
“Obviously, if they pass parts of it, I am not going to veto those parts,” Obama said Monday during a roundtable with Hispanic journalists.
“I will sign it, but I will then say, give me the rest and I will keep on making that argument as long as the need is there to put people back to work the get the economy moving,” he added. The White House, which has gotten burned in the past by making overly optimistic job-creation predictions, has avoided estimating how many jobs the package would create. But in an interview Monday on NBC News, Obama embraced an estimate from an outside economist, Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, and said the bill “could mean an additional 2 million jobs.”
For Obama, some progress on the economy has become a political imperative as he approaches his re-election campaign with the economy stalled, unemployment at 9.1 percent and polls showing the public unhappy with his stewardship of the issue.