Obama on road to push jobs bill

FLETCHER, N.C. — Rolling through small Southern towns in a campaign-style bus, President Barack Obama on Monday pressed lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to start taking up pieces of his rejected $447 billion jobs bill and mocked the Republicans who had shot it down in total.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced the first piece Monday, a bill that would spend $30 billion to create or save education jobs and $5 billion to do the same for police and firefighters.

“I can’t stress enough what has happened to education all over America, and in Nevada, certainly it is in spades,” Reid said. “We’ve dropped year-round school programs, class sizes are bigger, art programs are being eliminated, drama and music and all kinds of stuff.”

Under the bill, Nevada would get $258.3 million to support up to 3,600 educators and first-responder jobs, according to a Democratic analysis. Reid wasn’t sure when the bill would move forward but indicated debate could start this week.

Senate Republicans were quick to criticize the plan to provide additional state aid. They also opposed the Democrat’s plan to pay for the proposal by imposing a half-percent tax on income more than $1 million.

The plan is unlikely to gain the 60 votes it would need to proceed in the Senate. And it’s a nonstarter in the Republican-held House.

In North Carolina, the president directed his most pointed remarks at Senate Republicans, who last week blocked action on his full $447 billion proposal combining tax cuts and new spending.

“Essentially they said no to you,” Obama told a crowd outside Asheville. Noting that Republicans will get a chance to vote on elements of his jobs agenda one by one, he said: “Maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once. So we’re going to break it up into bite-size pieces.”

Republicans denounced the bus trip as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded campaign trip through two must-win states to try to bolster Obama’s standing for the 2012 election.

As he traveled along on his bus, there was little denying the presidential politics at play at each stop. Over three days, Obama is covering the countryside of both North Carolina and Virginia, two traditionally GOP-leaning states that he won in 2008 on his campaign’s ability to boost turnout among young people and black voters.

Senate Democrats plan to bring forward at least four pieces of the original bill focusing on what Reid described as “common sense, common ground, job-creating measures” Republicans have supported in the past.

A Senate vote on the $35 billion state aid bill could come as soon as the end of the week. If not, it probably would fall into November because the Senate plans to take a break next week, even as Obama urges quick action.

Reid insisted the bill is important to Clark County where additional school funding would help preserve teacher jobs and prevent a further erosion of after-school programs and music, drama and art education.

Happy to be back on the road, Obama found a friendly audience that broke into a chant of “four more years.”

Said the president in response: “I appreciate the four more years, but right now I’m thinking about the next 13 months.”

Still, his travel doubles as his bid for another term. His jobs bill serves as a platform to contrast himself with Republicans on both the legislation and his vision for the nation.

Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban contributed to this report.

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