NEWTON, Iowa - Visiting the critical battleground state of Iowa today, President Obama touted his election-year energy agenda and urged Republican lawmakers to put politics aside and back his proposals to boost the economy.
"Too many of my Republican friends in Congress are standing in the way. They either want to do nothing at all or they want to double down on the same failed policies that got us into this mess," the president told workers in the blue-collar town of Newton, Iowa.
Obama has been publicly pushing lawmakers to act on his "honey-do" list for Congress, five items that he has been promoting for months, but that have gained little traction on Capitol Hill.
"There are only five things on it - I didn't want to overload Congress with too much at once," Obama said of his wish list. "But they're ideas that will make a difference - right now - and we shouldn't need to wait for an election to get them done."
Speaking at TPI Composites, a wind turbine manufacturer, the president called for lawmakers to extend tax credits for clean energy companies that are set to expire at the end of the year.
"If Congress doesn't act, companies like this one will take a hit," he said. "Jobs will be lost. That's not a guess. That's a fact. And we can't let that happen. We can't walk away from these jobs. Congress should extend these tax credits, and they should do it now."
The Production Tax Credit, which was first passed in 1992 and was extended with bipartisan support several times since, gives a financial boost to wind farm owners competing with cheaper sources of non-renewable energy. It was originally sponsored by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who backs Obama's call for another extension.
The Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit offers incentives to manufacturers of wind energy parts, like TPI Composites, that supply the equipment needed for wind farms.
Both are set to expire unless Congress acts. Advocates say letting them lapse would endanger the industry and thousands of jobs, including some of the estimated 6,000 in Iowa's wind energy sector. Critics, meanwhile, say the U.S. should focus resources on cultivation of other energies such as cheap natural gas.
Obama is using the issue to highlight an area of common ground with Republicans and trying to appeal to some of Iowa's critical swing voters.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, supports the tax credit extension and has lobbied Congress to get it done.
"Our state is receiving 20 percent of its electricity from wind farms at stable and dependable rates, and there are over 215 wind-related businesses operating in 55 counties across Iowa, providing jobs for more than 5,000 workers," Branstad wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article last week. "This success has been replicated across the nation, with more than 470 factories in 43 states producing parts for the industry."
Grassley, while praising Obama's support for the credits, said the visit to Iowa to push for them was more politicking that policy.
"I'm glad the president likes Iowa, but his visit won't have much to do with getting the wind energy tax credit extended," he said. "He could travel down the street from the White House to the Capitol and talk to the congressional leadership instead, especially in the Senate, controlled by his party."
Obama will formally campaign for his re-election in Des Moines, Iowa, at a grassroots rally on the state fairgrounds later tonight.