White House makes final push for Obama's jobs bill

President Barack Obama gestures during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Barack Obama
President Obama gestures during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 6, 2011.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Updated 12:56 p.m. ET

As President Obama's job creation proposal faces almost certain defeat in a first vote in the Senate tonight, the White House plans to challenge Republican AND Democratic opponents to explain their stands.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told CBS Radio News, "that goes for every member of Congress who votes against the American Jobs Act. The question for them is this: If not this what? What is their proposal to create jobs now?"

In a bid to firm up support in his own party, Mr. Obama endorsed a plan by Senate Democratic leaders to fund the bill with 5.6 percent surtax on people who earn more than a million dollars a year. That idea replaced the president's original proposal to limit tax deductions for those earning more than $250,000 annually and halt government subsidies for oil and gas companies.

Up to four members of the president's party could join Republicans who are expected to block the entire jobs package from going forward in the Senate. A few Democrats from swing states are said to be wavering. Any Democratic "nays" would dilute the White House argument that Republicans alone are obstructionist.

The White House quickly downplayed the likely Democratic defections. Pfeiffer noted, "There is near unanimous support among Democrats for this. The question is will there be near unanimous opposition from Republicans? If that's the case, why? Is it politics? It certainly feels like politics."

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest voiced confidence that the measure would have the support of "the vast majority of Democrats." But the White House is facing political and numerical reality. The Democrats' 53 vote majority won't be enough to block unified Republican opposition to the job creation package. CBS News congressional correspondent Bob Fuss reports Republicans have more than enough votes to stop the bill in the Senate and to keep it from even coming up in the House.

In a report heard on the CBS World News Roundup, Fuss predicted tonight's tally will be the first and probably the last congressional vote on the entire Obama job creation bill.

The president and top aides have already opened the door to a piece by piece approach to the job creation measure if Congress, as expected, puts the full package on hold. Communications chief Pfeiffer outlined a likely scenario even as he insisted, "every piece of this should be done."

He added, "If the House and Senate get together and pass one piece of it...the president will sign it and say give me the rest because that's what we need."

Meanwhile, the president headed to Pittsburgh for a speech to a union audience and a meeting with his jobs council. He used the session with business and labor leaders to voice growing impatience with Congress.

"We don't wait for Congress because the American people can't afford to wait," he told the group. The president outlined broad plans to take administrative action to improve the hiring environment. He told his staff and the jobs council to "identify all those areas in which we can act administratively without congressional authorization and just get it done."

The advisory group released a new report calling for major government policy changes. The recommendations include ideas that are bound to be politically challenging for both parties. The panel favors immigration reform, tax policy changes and more spending on infrastructure improvements. The president said he expects "a values debate" on the future course of action.

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    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.