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Obama: If Lawmakers Oppose My Jobs Plan, 'I Want An Explanation'

<p>President Obama speaks during a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.</p>
Saul Loeb
AFP/Getty Images

President Obama speaks during a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

President Obama pushed for his $447 billion jobs bill this morning during a White House news conference in which he again challenged Republicans to either enact his ideas or be prepared to explain to voters why they opposed what he says are ways to put Americans to work.

While Republicans argue that the president's plan relies too much on higher taxes and not enough on cutting spending, Obama made the case that he has included many ideas that conservatives have been embracing for years.

He's hoping, the president said, that lawmakers end up doing so much that he won't have to campaign next year against a "do-nothing Congress." But if his plan is rejected, the president said, "I want an explanation."

We live-blogged as the news conference happened. Scroll down and read "up" if you want to see how it went in chronological order.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. "We're Going To Just Keep On Going At It":

As he finished the news conference, the president returns to his push for the $447 billion jobs bill he's championing.

If "everybody on Capitol Hill's cynical" and opposes his plan, Obama says, "we're going to just keep on going at it."

"My intention is to insist that [on] each part of this, I want an explanation as to why we shouldn't be doing it." He ticks off the parts of the package he often emphasizes: "rebuilding roads ... putting teachers in classrooms ... tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families ... tax breaks for our veterans."

He hopes, Obama concludes, that in the end Congress is so aggressive in enacting meaningful measures for boosting job growth, "that I can't campaign against them as a 'do-nothing Congress.' "

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET. European Leaders Recognize "The Urgency Of The Situation":

On Europe's financial problems, Obama says he's seen "a recognition by European leaders of the urgency of the situation. ... I'm confident that they want to get this done."

Update at 12:05 p.m. ET. Pakistan Is Both A Partner And A Nation That Deals With "Unsavory Characters":

The U.S. could not have had the successes it has had against al-Qaida in central Asia "without the cooperation of the Pakistani government," Obama says.

But, asked about comments by Adm. Mike Mullen concerning Pakistan's support of some terrorists, the president says that nation does have "interactions with some of the unsavory characters who they think might end up regaining power in Afghanistan." And that, "we find troubling," he adds.

On aid to Pakistan, he says the U.S. would not want to cut aid that goes to help feed people. He leaves open the possibility of other aid being curtailed.

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. A "Homework Assignment":

Continuing to talk about what he sees as the problems in Republican ideas about job growth, the president suggests a "homework assignment."

"Go ask Republicans what their job plan is," he says, and then have it "scored" by independent economists.

Update at 11:47 a.m. ET. Is He Following Truman's Model By Campaigning Against A "Do-Nothing Congress?"

As he travels the nation making the case for his $447 billion jobs bill, the president also makes the case that it's being blocked by lawmakers. Is he in campaign-mode? Is he following the lead of President Truman, who campaigned against a "do-nothing Congress?"

"I am always open to negotiations," Obama says. "What is also true is that they [Republicans] need to do something."

Then he goes on to say that he thinks the Republican "plan" for job growth is basically to "roll back financial protections ... [and eliminate] regulations on clean aid and clean water."

"Does anybody really think that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy that is weakening?" Obama asks, rhetorically.

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. The Case For "Green Jobs":

Asked about reports that so-called green industries have so far created far fewer jobs than forecast, the president argues that "there is role" for the government, in making sure "these companies at least have a fighting shot." Though, he concedes, "some won't be successful."

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET. On Solyndra And "Fast & Furious":

He has "complete confidence in Attorney Gen. [Eric] Holder," the president says, and trusts that if either he or Holder had known about the federal "Fast and Furious" program that allowed guns to be sent from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels, they would have moved to stop it.

On the controversy over a $535 million federal loan made to the now-bankrupt solar tech firm Solyndra, Obama says the loan decision was made "on the merits" and with the knowledge that some firms in that competitive industry will fail.

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. Occupy Wall Street "Expresses The Frustrations The American People Feel":

Asked about the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, the president says those protesters express "the frustrations the American people feel" when they see a "Great Depression ... huge collateral damage ... [and] the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive processes" that caused many of the problems.

Then he makes the case that his administration has been trying to enact reforms, but has run into opposition from Republicans.

Update at 11:21 a.m. ET. "We Can Afford It":

Republicans are right to ask whether his jobs bill can be paid for at a time when the nation can't afford a lot of things, the president says. But, "we can afford it, if we're willing to ask people like me [the well-off] to do a little more on taxes," Obama says.

Update at 11:19 a.m. ET. American People Are Cynical Because They Aren't Seeing Action:

"I can go out there and make speeches," Obama says, but Americans are not going to become less cynical about Washington "until they actually see action" on employment and other critical issues.

Update at 11:17 a.m. ET. President Is "Comfortable" With Idea Of 5 Percent Surtax On Millionaires:

Asked about a plan from Senate Democrats to pay for his $447 billion jobs bill with a 5 percent tax on those with incomes above $1 million a year, the president says "I'm comfortable with [that]," but he still wants to see long-term tax reform.

Update at 11:12 a.m. ET. On Tax Cuts:

Republican lawmakers make the case that the president's $447 billion jobs bill relies too much on tax increases and not enough on spending cuts.

The president is making the case, though, that the package includes things that Republicans have long been advocating. "Why would you be opposed to tax cuts for small businesses and tax cuts for American workers?" the president asks of GOP lawmakers.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET. Economy Is Weaker In Part Because Of "Debt Ceiling Debacle":

The president concedes the economy is weaker than had been expected when the year began. He says among the reasons are the tsunami in Japan that hurt manufacturers' supply chains and demand for goods, the financial problems in Europe, and "the debt ceiling debacle" in Washington that was "a bit of game playing that was completely unnecessary."

Update at 11:07 a.m. ET. Senators Need To Think Long And Hard:

If they vote next week to oppose his $447 billion jobs package, the president says, senators will need to explain that to voters.

Update at 11:02 a.m. ET. It's All About Jobs:

The reason he keeps taking about his jobs bill, the president says he begins the news conference, "is that people really need help now."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.