* Picking guests to show support, highlight plans
* Boehner invites a slate of 'job creators'
* Gibson Guitar CEO among Boehner's guests
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Sept 8 Corporate leaders, small
business owners and the president of the largest U.S. labor
federation will be in the spotlight in Congress on Thursday
night as President Barack Obama delivers a high-stakes speech
on his plans to boost U.S. employment.
Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of General Electric Co (GE.N);
Kenneth Chenault, chairman of American Express Co (AXP.N);
Steve Case, a venture capital investor who co-founded American
Online AOL.N, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO,
the largest U.S. union federation will be sitting with first
lady Michelle Obama in her box as the president speaks.
Presidents invite guests to the high-profile spot, a
favorite target of television cameras, to highlight the
initiatives included in major speeches and as evidence that
their plans have support.
Obama is to lay out a jobs package worth more than $300
billion on Thursday, staking his re-election hopes on a call
for urgent action to revive the economy and challenging
Republicans who have consistently opposed his initiatives.
With the U.S. unemployment rate stuck at about 9 percent
for months, polls show Americans are worried and frustrated
with both the Democratic president and Republicans and
Democrats in Congress.
John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of
Representatives, also invited guests to help underscore his
party's contention that Obama is responsible for regulations
that hurt companies.
Boehner said he invited a dozen private-sector "job
creators," who he said were dogged by excessive federal
regulations that kill jobs.
Boehner's guests included Spencer Weitman, president of
National Cement, which he said suspended construction of a $350
million cement kiln in Alabama due to regulatory obstacles. He
also invited Lisa Ingram, chief operating officer of White
Castle, a hamburger company that says federal regulations
contributed to its closing a plant in New Jersey.
Another guest of Boehner was Henry Juszkiewicz, chief
executive of the Gibson Guitar Co., whose facilities have been
raided by armed federal agents on suspicion that the company is
using illegally imported wood from endangered plants.
The other guests in Mrs. Obama's box include small business
owners and executives; and Americans who work in
infrastructure, have benefited from training programs, are
worried about losing their jobs, would benefit from tax cuts or
attend schools that need renovating.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley; Cincinnati, Ohio, Mayor
Mark Mallory, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will
also be sitting in the box.
(Additional reporting by Tom Ferraro, editing by Doina