* Obama hopes to advance jobs package piecemeal
* Republicans see Obama strategy based on demonizing them
By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON, Oct 15 U.S. President Barack Obama
urged Republicans on Saturday to stop picking "ideological
fights" and focus instead on job creation efforts as he pressed
Congress to begin voting next week piece by piece on his
defeated jobs package.
With an eye to the 2012 election, Obama is working with
fellow Democrats to break into parts his $447 billion jobs bill
-- which Republicans blocked in the Senate on Tuesday -- and
challenge their opponents to show where they stand.
He used his weekly radio speech to showcase his strategy of
painting the Republicans as obstructionists impeding his drive
to revive the stalled economy and reduce stubbornly high
unemployment, considered crucial to his re-election prospects.
But, in the Republicans' Saturday radio address,
Representative Kevin McCarthy countered that his party was
pursuing concrete ideas to jump-start the economy and called on
Obama to "come off the campaign trail and get to work."
Republicans say Obama's original package was laden with
what they see as wasteful spending and counterproductive tax
hikes for wealthier Americans, and say he seems more interested
in demonizing them than working to find common ground.
The deadlock has raised concerns that political dysfunction
in Washington will block any major steps to spur hiring before
November 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
"Republicans (in the House of Representatives) spent the
past couple days picking partisan ideological fights," Obama
said, citing Republican proposals over the past week to ease
environmental regulations and restrict abortion funding.
But Obama, who has adopted an increasingly populist tone to
promote his jobs plan as his poll ratings languish near the
lows of his presidency, said he would give Republicans "another
chance to spend more time worrying about your jobs than keeping
"Next week, I'm urging members of Congress to vote on
putting hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the
classroom, cops back on the streets and firefighters back on
the job," he said, identifying the first piecemeal proposal he
wants lawmakers to bring up. "And if they vote 'no'" on that,
they'll have to tell you why."
Obama was referring to a portion of his jobs package that
is seen having little chance of winning Republican support --
giving billions of dollars in aid to states to prevent layoffs
of teachers and support the hiring of police and firefighters.
POLL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR OBAMA PLAN
A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll this week showed the
public, by a 2-to-1 margin, backed Obama's jobs plan through a
mixture of stimulus spending and tax cuts. Democratic leaders
propose financing it with a 5.7 percent surtax on
Senate Republicans offered a largely repackaged plan of
their own on Thursday that featured calls for tax reform and
cuts plus repeal of Obama's U.S. healthcare overhaul and
lifting prohibitions on offshore energy exploration.
"By finding ways to support small business and promote
entrepreneurship, we can rev up our economy and grow the jobs
we need," McCarthy said. "And this shouldn't be an exercise of
partisan gamesmanship or credit-claiming."
Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have
in the past backed some components of Obama's package, such as
a payroll tax cut, but suggest they may not do so again.
Obama said he wanted other elements of his plan put to a
vote in coming weeks, including infrastructure spending,
small-business tax breaks, preventing middle-class tax hikes
from kicking in next year and extending unemployment aid.
Obama, who has spent the past month barnstorming across the
country touting his jobs package, will make a bus tour from
Monday to Wednesday through North Carolina and Virginia, two
election battleground states.