On a politically charged trip to Cincinnati, President Obama took aim at the top two Republicans in Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of neighboring Kentucky, both of whom he derided for opposing his $447 billion jobs bill.
"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," the president said as he stood before the Brent Spence Bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky. "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's visit was the second time the president has promoted his jobs plan in the battleground state in the past two weeks, sparking criticism from Republicans that the trip was more political than presidential.
Obama carried Ohio in 2008 by just 5 percentage points, but unemployment in the state is on the rise and support for the president is waning. The White House insisted today that the location was chosen to "symbolize" the need for Congress to act.
"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. That's purely accidental," Obama told a raucous crowd at the Hilltop Basic Resources facility.
"But part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are the two most powerful Republicans in government," he said. "They can either kill this jobs bill or they can help us pass it."
Truth be told, many Democrats in Congress have shown lackluster support for the president's bill, as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., admitted Monday that the Senate floor was "pretty well jammed now," suggesting that there may not be time for a vote until next month -- a far cry from the president's demand to "pass this bill right now."
Obama has also come under fire for choosing to highlight the decaying but not "shovel ready" Brent Spence Bridge as an example of a project that could immediately put Americans back to work. An existing $2.4 billion project to replace the "functionally obsolete" bridge is not slated to start construction until 2015.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the choice of venue today, telling reporters that "if the American Jobs Act were passed, we could speed up the process of environmental and other approvals on this specific bridge."
Still, McConnell blasted the president for engaging in what he called a political stunt.
"Don't patronize us by implying if we pass the second stimulus that bridges will get fixed right away," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "The purpose of this visit is perfectly clear. The president's plan is to go out to this bridge and say, 'If only lawmakers in Washington would pass his second stimulus bill right away, then bridges like this one would get fixed.' And that the only thing standing in the way of repairing them is people like me.
"If a bridge needs fixing, by all means, let's fix it," McConnell said. "But don't tell us we need to pass a half a trillion dollar stimulus bill and accept job-killing tax hikes to do it."
Obama also used the event to trumpet his plan to reduce the nation's deficit by more than $2 trillion in new entitlement cuts and tax increases on the wealthy, declaring, "I'm a warrior for the middle class!"
"This isn't to punish success," he said. "The Republicans in Congress call this class warfare. Well you know what? If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as plumber or teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I'll wear that charge as a badge of honor. Because the only class warfare I've seen is the battle that's been waged against the middle class in this country for a decade.
"It is time to build an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs in this country," he said. "It's time to build an economy that honors the values of hard work and responsibility. It's time to build an economy that lasts."