WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama called on Republicans and Democrats to come together and support his $447 billion jobs plan Thursday evening.
He managed to get Democratic and Republican members of the Arizona delegation to come together, but not in support of the plan that he presented to a joint session of Congress.
Both sides said the plan did not live up to their expectations.
“Rather than offer a new roadmap for recovery and reform, he merely dusted off a tired agenda of old ideas wrapped in freshly partisan rhetoric,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., in a statement after the speech.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., agreed, calling it “another spending package,” but added that it isn’t “of the size that would have a real effect.”
Democratic Rep. Grijalva of Tucson agreed that the act is not big enough, although he did call the proposal “a step in the right direction” toward job creation and fixing the economy.
“It needs to be bolder,” Grijalva said. “It needs to be more robust.”
Obama’s proposal seeks to stimulate economic growth through payroll tax cuts, investments in infrastructure and assistance to local and state governments.
“The purpose of the (act) is simple,” Obama said. “To put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.”
His plan would fund construction of schools and roads, keep hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters and police officers on the job, and direct new jobs to veterans and the long-term unemployed, among other proposals.
The plan also calls for an extension of payroll tax cuts that are set to expire, a move that Obama said would save the typical family $1,500 in taxes. That and other payroll tax cuts included in the plan account for more than half of its projected $447 billion cost.
With a rising deficit, the price tag worries Republicans, who were disappointed they did not have details of the bill Thursday.
“I’d … be very curious how we’re going to pay for it,” McCain said.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, called the newest plan a “miniature stimulus program that he (Obama) said would be paid for, but he wouldn’t tell us how.”
Other Republicans echoed the complaint that the president’s plan was more of the same, pointing to the administration’s previous economic stimulus plan.
“I hope to hear (the president say) that what we’ve been doing is not working … let’s change course,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, before the speech. “I don’t expect to hear that.”
Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Phoenix, said before the speech that the administration keeps “pushing … the same stale ideas.”
“I hope the president uses this opportunity to show to Congress that he has some new ideas that can really get some bipartisanship support behind them,” Quayle said.
The address comes as unemployment rate is stalled at 9.1 percent, with no new jobs added in the month of August.
All of Arizona’s delegation was at the joint session except Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson. She was expected to watch the address on television from Houston, a spokesman said.
Franks said the inclusion of tax cuts was a good move, but disagreed with other elements of the plan.
“When you mix dirt and ice cream, it doesn’t make the dirt taste any better and it ruins the ice cream,” Franks said after the speech.
Max Levy and Cassondra Strande are reporters for Cronkite News Service