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Obama to Send Jobs Plan to Congress Monday

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Sunday, 11 Sep 2011 | 8:50 PM ET

Barack Obama will try to keep steady pressure on Republicans on Monday when he announces that his $450 billion jobs plan is ready to be taken up by Congress, reiterating his call for lawmakers to quickly pass the bill.

President Barack Obama
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President Barack Obama

The U.S. president is expected to use an address in the Rose Garden to announce that his proposal will be sent to Congress on Monday evening, according to a White House official.

Republican leaders have offered the plan a lukewarm reception and have repeatedly said aspects of the plan would be considered, including proposals to boost infrastructure projects. On Friday, John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, and other leaders requested a copy of the legislation and said they intended to have the proposal scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The U.S. president’s ability to push Republicans into action represents a big test for Mr Obama, who is facing record low poll numbers and increasingly difficult re-election prospects. While some rank-and-file Republicans have criticised the plan for being too similar to an earlier $825bn stimulus package that they claim failed to fix the country’s economic woes or significantly boost the beleaguered jobs market, the party is also under pressure to appear to be more open to compromise and responsive to the economic struggles of average Americans.

Mr Obama has not yet spelt out how he hopes to pay for the plan, but those details are expected to be announced a week from Monday, when the White House unveils a proposal to the new congressional super committee that has been tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in future savings. That plan is likely to include calls to end billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil and gas sector and tax increases on the wealthy and some corporations. He is also expected to call for long term reform to expensive US programmes such as Medicare, the healthy insurance programme for the elderly.

If passed, the jobs plan would reduce tax paid by workers to fund Social Security, the national retirement scheme, to 3.1 percent in 2012 from the 4.2 percent level temporarily introduced this year. If the White House proposal fails to pass, this tax would revert to its traditional rate of 6.2 percent.

The White House plan also includes a reduction in the contributions to this so-called payroll tax paid by businesses from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent, with a limit set at the first $5m of wages. Companies that can show they have hired new workers or increased salaries will win a complete exemption from payroll taxes on the higher payrolls, though this benefit is also capped. Combined, the payroll tax measures would cost about $240 billion.

Mr Obama’s plan also calls for the establishment of an infrastructure bank and $80bn in spending on new building projects, from school modernisation to roads and bridges. In addition, the White House is requesting that Congress approve aid for states to rehire laid off teachers and firefighters, an extension of unemployment insurance worth $49 billionand a tax credit for Americans who have been jobless for a long period.

The White House will seek to introduce legislation on the proposal next week and will outline its plan to pay for the measures, as well as other fiscal reform ideas, to the so-called “super committee” of Congress in coming days. The panel has been tasked to find at least $1.2 trillion in savings by the end of November, though the White House will seek to increase that figure.

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