WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama laid out a $447 billion jobs package of tax cuts and government spending on Thursday that will be critical to his re-election chances but he faces an uphill fight with Republicans.
With his poll numbers at new lows amid voter frustration with 9.1 percent unemployment, Obama said in a high-stakes address to Congress that the United States is in a "national crisis" and called for urgent action on sweeping proposals to revive the stalled economy and avert another recession.
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"Those of us here tonight can't solve all of our nation's woes," Obama said in a nationally televised prime-time speech. "But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives."
Taking aim at Republicans who have consistently opposed his initiatives, Obama said it was time to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy."
Obama, who pushed through an $800 billion economic stimulus package in 2009, said his jobs plan would cut taxes for workers and businesses and put more construction workers and teachers on the job through infrastructure projects.
"It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business," he said.
Obama said his proposed plan would "provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire there will be customers for their products and services."
"You should pass this jobs plan right away," he said in a speech
interrupted by applause from his fellow Democrats while Republicans sat
mostly in silence.
Obama proposed extending unemployment
insurance at a cost of $49 billion, modernizing schools for $30 billion
and investing in transportation infrastructure projects for $50 billion.
the bulk of his proposal was made up of $240 billion in tax relief by
cutting payroll taxes for employees in half next year and trimming
employer payroll taxes as well.
Obama also said he was seeking to
broaden US homeowners' access to mortgage refinancing in a plan to help
the ailing housing market and put money back in the pockets of
borrowers needing help locking into record low interest rates.
insisted that "everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been
supported by both Democrats and Republicans -- including many who sit
here tonight -- and everything in this bill will be paid for.