WASHINGTON — President Obama stood Wednesday before an aging Washington bridge and urged a bitterly divided Congress to approve his plan to boost infrastructure spending, but the effort is likely to be blocked today in the Senate.
That would be no surprise to Obama, who since unveiling his $447 billion jobs package two months ago has seen his ideas rejected, largely along party lines. The partisan schism was evident again Wednesday, as both sides embraced long-held philosophical stands and saw political gain from their refusal to budge.
Democrats want higher taxes on millionaires to pay for the infrastructure plan. Republicans don't. Republicans in the House of Representatives have led the way in passing a series of bills to provide private-sector initiatives aimed at creating jobs. Democrats vow to keep pushing the Obama package.
There was little evidence that the two sides are taking serious steps to reach consensus on efforts to bring down the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate.
Obama, standing next to the Key Bridge, which spans the Potomac River to link northwest Washington with northern Virginia, tried to be both presidential and partisan.
"Infrastructure shouldn't be a partisan issue," he said.
He quoted President Ronald Reagan in citing infrastructure initiatives as "an investment in tomorrow that we must make today."
Obama asked, "Since when do we have Republicans voting against Ronald Reagan's ideas? There's no good reason to oppose this bill, not one, and members of Congress who do, who vote no, are going to have to explain why to their constituencies."
At one point, he ridiculed Congress for digressing by debating smaller matters, such as a House measure reaffirming the nation's "In God We Trust" motto.
"That's not putting people back to work," Obama said. "I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work."
Republicans insisted they're eager to create jobs, too, and urged Obama to stop campaigning and reason with them.
"While the president is out doing campaign events all over the country, what he could do is to actually come to Washington and be focused on trying to help pass bills that would create a better environment for job creation and help put the American people back to work," said House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
Senate Democrats' infrastructure package would be funded by a 0.7 percent surtax on millionaires.
"It (asks) millionaires and billionaires to contribute just a little bit more than they do now. A little bit more," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"It was paid for," Obama said Wednesday of his package, "and yet they said no. The truth is the only way we can attack our economic challenges on the scale that's needed is with bold action by Congress."