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Obama seeks to put onus on Republicans on jobs

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sat, 15 Oct 2011 14:30 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Obama hopes to advance jobs package piecemeal

* Republicans see Obama strategy based on demonizing them (Updates with Republican weekly address)

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama urged Republicans on Saturday to stop picking "ideological fights" and focus instead on job creation efforts as he pressed Congress to begin voting next week piece by piece on his defeated jobs package.

With an eye to the 2012 election, Obama is working with fellow Democrats to break into parts his ${esc.dollar}447 billion jobs bill -- which Republicans blocked in the Senate on Tuesday -- and challenge their opponents to show where they stand.

He used his weekly radio speech to showcase his strategy of painting the Republicans as obstructionists impeding his drive to revive the stalled economy and reduce stubbornly high unemployment, considered crucial to his re-election prospects.

But, in the Republicans' Saturday radio address, Representative Kevin McCarthy countered that his party was pursuing concrete ideas to jump-start the economy and called on Obama to "come off the campaign trail and get to work."

Republicans say Obama's original package was laden with what they see as wasteful spending and counterproductive tax hikes for wealthier Americans, and say he seems more interested in demonizing them than working to find common ground.

The deadlock has raised concerns that political dysfunction in Washington will block any major steps to spur hiring before November 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

"Republicans (in the House of Representatives) spent the past couple days picking partisan ideological fights," Obama said, citing Republican proposals over the past week to ease environmental regulations and restrict abortion funding.

But Obama, who has adopted an increasingly populist tone to promote his jobs plan as his poll ratings languish near the lows of his presidency, said he would give Republicans "another chance to spend more time worrying about your jobs than keeping theirs."

"Next week, I'm urging members of Congress to vote on putting hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the classroom, cops back on the streets and firefighters back on the job," he said, identifying the first piecemeal proposal he wants lawmakers to bring up. "And if they vote 'no'" on that, they'll have to tell you why."

Obama was referring to a portion of his jobs package that is seen having little chance of winning Republican support -- giving billions of dollars in aid to states to prevent layoffs of teachers and support the hiring of police and firefighters.

POLL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR OBAMA PLAN

A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll this week showed the public, by a 2-to-1 margin, backed Obama's jobs plan through a mixture of stimulus spending and tax cuts. Democratic leaders propose financing it with a 5.7 percent surtax on millionaires.

Senate Republicans offered a largely repackaged plan of their own on Thursday that featured calls for tax reform and cuts plus repeal of Obama's U.S. healthcare overhaul and lifting prohibitions on offshore energy exploration.

"By finding ways to support small business and promote entrepreneurship, we can rev up our economy and grow the jobs we need," McCarthy said. "And this shouldn't be an exercise of partisan gamesmanship or credit-claiming."

Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have in the past backed some components of Obama's package, such as a payroll tax cut, but suggest they may not do so again.

Obama said he wanted other elements of his plan put to a vote in coming weeks, including infrastructure spending, small-business tax breaks, preventing middle-class tax hikes from kicking in next year and extending unemployment aid.

Obama, who has spent the past month barnstorming across the country touting his jobs package, will make a bus tour from Monday to Wednesday through North Carolina and Virginia, two election battleground states. (Editing by Vicki Allen)

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