Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
In a fiery political — and personal — speech in Cincinnati to push his jobs plan, President Barack Obama called out Speaker of the House John Boehner on his home turf.Speaking in front of a “functionally obsolete” bridge miles from Boehner’s home district that connects to the home state of the Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Obama was combative, criticising Congress for failing to act on his jobs plan.
A plan to rebuild the Brent Spence Bridge would not benefit from Obama’s plan — with construction not slated to start until 2015 — but Press Secretary Jay Carney called it “symbolic and representative of crumbling infrastructure across the country.”
After highlighting the benefits of his plan, Obama said: “So my question to Congress is, what on Earth are you waiting for?”
“Now, the bridge behind us just so happens to connect the state that’s home to the Speaker of the House with the state that’s home to the Minority Leader of the Senate. Sheer coincidence, of course. But part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help us pass it.”
“I know these men care about their states. And I can’t imagine that the Speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges is classified as substandard. I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that “roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.” I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process, recently said you can’t deny that “infrastructure does create jobs.”
“Well if that’s the case, then there’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs. Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work. Pass this jobs bill right away.”
Obama also criticised Republicans for attacking his jobs and tax plan as “class warfare,” but said if protecting the middle class made him guilty of that, “I’ll wear that charge as a badge of honour.”
This isn’t to punish success. What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it – the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea that could make us millionaires. All I’m saying is that those who have done the best in this country should contribute to its success. All I’m saying is that Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t be paying a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. In the United States of America, a construction worker making $50,000 shouldn’t pay higher taxes than somebody pulling in $50 million. That’s not fair. It’s not right. And it has to change.
This is about priorities. This is about choices. If we want to pay for this jobs plan, and close this deficit, and invest in our future, the money has to come from somewhere. Would you rather keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or do you want construction workers to have a job rebuilding our bridges? Would you rather keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or do you want to put teachers back to work, and help small businesses, and cut taxes for middle-class families?
“Now the Republicans, you know when I, I talked about this earlier in the week. They said ‘well, this is class warfare.’ You know what? If asking a billionaire to pay their fair of taxes. To pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare, then you know what? I, I, I, I, I’m, I’m a warrior for the middle class. I’m happy to fight for the middle class.”
For the record, Obama used some form of the phrase “Pass this jobs bill” twelve times during his speech.
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