Obama talks tough, cajoles and ridicules Congress

President Barack Obama delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. Watching are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner. AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque

It was an effort by President Obama to get Congress to enact a new economic stimulus plan without using the word "stimulus."

The stakes are high both for the economy and his prospects for a second term.

He used a 33-minute address to describe a collection of tax cuts, subsidies, government benefits and incentives that he said would help to grow the economy, bolster the recovery and create jobs.

At times he talked tough to Congress. At times he cajoled. And at times he ridiculed.

"The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy," the president said.

He is calling his proposal, simply, the American Jobs Act. With the unemployment rate lodged for a 2nd month at 9.1%, and with job gains zeroed out by job losses in August, Mr. Obama called this "an urgent time for our country."

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It's an urgent time for him as well with his standing in the polls continuing to descend, further weakening his ability to do anything about the economy.

"Members of Congress," he served notice, "it is time for us to meet our responsibilities." By that he meant taking politically difficult steps.

With Republicans in control in the House, and with Tea Party conservatives dead set against new government spending programs, Mr. Obama has little reason to think he can get his program enacted.

"Already, the media has proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences," the president acknowledged. "And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box."

Obama's message: "Pass this jobs bill"
Full text of Obama's remarks

But he said the next election is 14 months away and too many Americans "don't have the luxury of waiting."

"Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now," said the president.

If the economy proves too big an obstacle to overcome in his bid for re-election, Mr. Obama showed that if he is to go down, he wants to go down swinging.

"Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it," he implored Congress.

In recent weeks, Mr. Obama served notice on Congress - and by that he means the Republicans in Congress - that unless it works with him on his jobs program, he'll make it a campaign issue in 2012. He didn't specifically repeat that warning in his address in the House Chamber, but it was an unspoken threat.

Some Republicans were quick to reject the president's proposals, not so Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Republicans rejected a chance to appear on television with an official GOP response to the president's speech, but Boehner was quick to issue a statement keeping the door open to the possibility of agreement.

"The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration," wrote the Speaker. "We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."

Meanwhile, the White House waged an e-mail campaign, loading reporters' inboxes with scores of statements from Congressional Democrats and others who found merit in the president's plan.

Mr. Obama now takes his economic proposals on the road. He gives a speech Friday at the University of Richmond in Virginia, home state to House Republican Leader Eric Cantor. And on Tuesday, he reprises his speech in Columbus, Ohio - home state to Speaker Boehner.

Another obstacle to overcome comes a week from Monday, when Mr. Obama promises to unveil his plan on how to pay for his expensive and expansive jobs program. He wants to have the plan enacted this year - and then pay for it with offsets in the future netherworld known as the outyears.

From CBS MoneyWatch.com:

Mark Thoma: Obama's Jobs Speech: Bolder Than Expected
Alain Sherter: Some Worthy Ideas, but It Won't Turn the Tide

  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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