Obama releases familiar 'to-do list' for Congress

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

President Obama boasted on Tuesday that his latest jobs plan can fit on a Post-it note -- just the right size, he added pointedly, “so every member of Congress should have time to read it.” But even if his scaled-down agenda is a far cry from the ambitious jobs legislation he sent to Congress last September, the president signaled to a crowd in upstate New York that he intends to keep the pressure on Republicans in Congress. If they won’t give him the big-ticket items he wanted, he intends to push them to approve the items on his new, five-point "to-do list."

“Even if Republicans are still saying no to some of the bigger proposals we made in the Jobs Act, there are some additional ideas that could help people get to work right now,” Obama said in remarks delivered at a nanotechnology research facility in Albany, N.Y.

The president’s truncated agenda underscores how little traction the White House's legislation has been able to get on Capitol Hill. The modest list calls on Congress to pass tax incentives that promote insourcing, to pass tax credits for small businesses that hire more workers at higher wages, and to extend tax credits for clean-energy companies. It also calls for the creation of a veterans’ jobs corps and for action that would make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages.

"They're simple ideas. They're the kinds of things that in the past have been supported by Democrats and Republicans," Obama said. Last fall, he said the same of his $447 billion jobs legislation.  

Obama admitted that most of the job-creation proposals he sent to Congress last fall went nowhere. The payroll tax cut was one of the few ideas that made it back to the president’s desk for his signature.

Republicans were quick to point out that the president’s new initiatives aren’t exactly new.

“This morning, we have fresh evidence that the president has reached the bottom of the barrel,” Brendan Buck, House Speaker John Boehner’s press secretary, wrote in a blog post. “The small, sticky ‘to-do list’ is the perfect symbol for a shrunken presidency, more focused on campaigning than governing.”

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said what America needs is a “#ObamaStopList”

But Democrats insist the president is only responding to the realities of dealing with a Republican Congress intent on giving him no legislative victories in an election year – even if they could improve the economy. And the president stressed that his to-do list isn't a one-day announcement. “Over the next few weeks I’m going to be talking about this to-do list when I’m on the road,” he said. Obama has been traveling the country to pressure Congress into taking action on his initiatives ever since he introduced his jobs bill last fall.

“The truth is, the only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress,” he said.

The president's latest initiative serves as a reminder that, when it comes to job creation, Congress may have more power than the president. Headed toward an election that will be all about the economy, it's a message both Republicans and Democrats would do well to absorb.

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