A Look At Reaction To Obama's Jobs Speech

Sep 8, 2011
Originally published on September 8, 2011 7:01 pm


MELISSA BLOCK, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress this evening, urging adoption of what he called the American Jobs Act. It is a package of payroll tax cuts and spending increases aimed at jobless benefits and infrastructure improvements. The overall price tag is nearly $450 billion and the president said it will be all paid for.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook was in the Capitol along with the lawmakers for President Obama's speech, and she was able to chat with some lawmakers afterward. And Andrea, how did this speech play inside the House chamber.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Well, generally Democrats loved it. They said that the president was on fire. That he really brought strength to this speech. That he said exactly what they wanted to hear. And Republicans said, more or less, no way, Jose. That you can't bring us one package, one bill, and make it just my way or the highway. That he's going to have to bend on some things. That there may be some room for overlap, but not as much as the president is talking about here.

SIEGEL: Let's hear a bit of this speech. Here's a line that seemed to appeal to Democrats, but not to Republicans.

President BARACK OBAMA: And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school and we can give it to them if we act now.


SIEGEL: The president there, proposing a big school modernization program, Andrea.

SEABROOK: Yes. Yes. And this was one place where Democrats and Republicans didn't agree, where the Democrats jumped out of their seats. They were very excited and clapping and whooping. But the Republicans stayed seated. And I think it was the thought of spending: the spending that it would cost to overhaul these schools. It just, you know, it just makes them sour.

SIEGEL: Now there were some parts of this speech, though, that seemed to please both sides, including this part which was about veterans.

OBAMA: Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America's veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.


SIEGEL: That applause, I gather, was bipartisan applause.

SEABROOK: Yes. People jumped to their feet. This was one place where Democrats, Republicans agreed wholeheartedly and that there should be some kind of jobs program for the returning warriors as they call them here.

SIEGEL: Andrea, the total price tag of this bill, nearly half a trillion dollars, was larger than had been floated over the past few days. It's about half as big as the big stimulus bill of 2009. Does the size alone make it more difficult to get it through the Republican-controlled House?

SEABROOK: Yes. I think it does. You know, the supercommittee, the so-called supercommittee that's trying to tackle the debt problem is trying to find between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next ten years. When you ask when the president comes and asks that committee to find another close to 500 billion, that really takes the number close to 2 trillion. And it's really just become such a large number that they start having to do things that become impassable, especially when you get closer and closer to an election. It just seems like this is a very hard sell in both the chambers.

SIEGEL: And the phrase that he repeated several times in this speech: pass this jobs bill, pass this jobs bill now.

SEABROOK: Yes. It was a refrain that he can take from here and take it on the campaign trail, and take it all over, as he says, four corners of the country, get it out there and show what the Republican Congress, House of Representatives can do or won't do.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Andrea Seabrook on Capitol Hill. Andrea, thank you.

SEABROOK: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.