In Texas, Obama Pitches Jobs Bill and Appeals to Donors

John Boehner

At two luncheon fund-raisers and then at a community college here, Mr. Obama continued to challenge Congress to “pass this bill.”

At Eastfield College in Mesquite, just east of Dallas, Mr. Obama almost shouted into the microphone, as if he were speaking to the Congressional leadership: “The time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now.”

The president, to laughter, said Republicans would resist his plans “if I took their party platform and proposed it” because they say they do not want to give him a victory.

“Give me a win? Give me a break,” he said, bringing the enthusiastic and diverse crowd of more than 1,000 to its feet. “This is not about giving Democrats or Republicans a win. This is about giving people who are hurting a win. This is about giving small-business owners a win, and entrepreneurs a win, and students a win, and working families a win.  This is about giving America a win.”

The trip was the latest example of the president’s new strategy of confronting Republicans directly, after nearly a year in which they have blocked his efforts to raise more revenues from the wealthy and corporations both to reduce long-term deficits and, in the short term, to offset the cost of additional spending and tax cuts to spur the economy.

Mr. Obama did not mention either Mr. Perry or Representative Jeb Hensarling, the conservative who represents Mesquite. But he did single out the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, for saying on Monday that he would not bring the president’s job creation package to a vote.

“Do they not have the time? They just took the week off,” Mr. Obama said, mockingly.

Republicans oppose the package mainly because of the tax increases proposed to offset the $447 billion cost of extending temporary payroll tax cuts for all workers, cutting taxes for employers and providing additional spending for infrastructure work and for aid to local governments.

To persuade reluctant Democrats to help pay for the jobs bill, Senate leaders are pondering a surcharge on millionaires, Senate officials said Tuesday. During his closed-door lunch with other Democrats, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, proposed a plan in a which the top tax rate on income over $1 million  would be raised to a top rate of 40 percent, rather than the current 35 percent. This surcharge would replace a variety of other tax changes that Mr. Obama has proposed for high-income earners.

At the White House, the communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, said, “The president’s goal is to grow the economy, put more money in the pockets of the middle class and put more Americans back to work.” Mr. Pfeiffer continued, “As we have said from the beginning, we offered a balanced way to pay for the American Jobs Act, but if Congress has a better idea  that ensures that everyone pays their fair share, we’re open to it.” 

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said Congress should concentrate on areas where Republicans have identified common ground with Democrats on jobs. “That should be our focus,” he said, “not desperate gimmicks floated to cover up divisions within the Democratic caucus.”

Mr. Obama’s trip to Texas and then to Missouri was unusual in that both are conservative states he did not win in 2008, and is not expected to win in 2012. The president’s trip showed that even in Republican-friendly states he can scoop up campaign dollars. Texas ranks fourth among the states as a source of the $33.4 million that Mr. Obama raised through the first half of this year for the 2012 campaign cycle and for the Democratic National Committee — behind the Democratic-leaning states of California, New York and Illinois.

In Dallas, more than 500 people paid at least $500 a person to hear Mr. Obama, and a second luncheon for $35,800 a couple drew about 30 people. He got applause when he told the donors, “We’ve got to ask the wealthiest Americans, the biggest corporations, to pay their fair share.”

“If we want to put people back to work and close this deficit and invest in our future, then the money has got to come from somewhere,” Mr. Obama added.  “So you’ve got a choice.  Would you rather keep tax loopholes for oil companies that are doing just fine?  I know I’m in Texas.  I know there’s a lot of oil here. But they’re doing fine.”

Jackie Calmes reported from Mesquite, and Jennifer Steinhauer from Washington. Griff Palmer contributed research.

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