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Obama To Congress: Make Jobs Proposal Top Priority


President Obama sought this morning to put his proposal to create American jobs at the top of Congress' to-do list. The president has traveled the country in recent weeks, trying to rally public support for his $447 billion plan. And today, he held a press conference at the White House.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And the reason I keep going around the country talking about this jobs bill is because people really need help right now. Our economy really needs a jolt right now.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Brian Naylor joins us to discuss the president's remarks. And Brian, what is the headline from this news conference?

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Renee, I think it's just more of what we've been hearing from the president, proposing - or rather pushing his jobs proposal that he says would create some 1.9 million jobs and help turn the economy around. He said it would provide a form of insurance against continued economic problems in Europe. He said it would help things from getting worse in this country. And he said that - he put a lot of pressure on the Senate, which could vote as early as next week on this proposal to pass it, and said they should explain why not if they vote against it. Here's what he said.

OBAMA: Do they have a plan that would have a similar impact? Because if they do, I'm happy to hear it.

MONTAGNE: President Obama, just now. What will it take for that plan to pass the Senate next week?

NAYLOR: Well, the easy answer is 60 votes. That's what it takes to get pretty much anything out of the Senate these days. But a lot of that is - the biggest problem the president faces is getting members of his own party to vote for the plan, not necessarily Republicans, but there have been a lot of opposition from some Democratic senators who haven't liked some of the energy taxes proposed on the oil and gas industries.

So the Democratic leaders in the Senate have tried to win support from Democrats by now proposing a tax on - to raising the tax on millionaires, people who earn over a million dollars a year. The president indicated today for the first time that he would support that idea. It's still not clear whether there will be enough votes from Republicans to get this through. But he said if not, maybe we should take it up - maybe the Senate should take up piece by piece in order to get something moving so that the economy can get moving.

MONTAGNE: The president also took questions about the protests going on on Wall Street about Wall Street greed. That's what the protestors are protesting, generally. What was his reaction?

NAYLOR: Yeah. He said he's seen it on TV. He's heard about it, and he understands that the frustrations that the American people are expressing. He said, you know, it was - it's been the - it was the biggest crisis since the Depression, the financial meltdown of 2008, 2009, and that there is still a lot of frustration out there. And he says the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration over the fact that Wall Street seems to be winning, and they're not.

MONTAGNE: And what do you say to the questions about why the administration hasn't done more to prosecute bad players on Wall Street?

NAYLOR: Well, he said simply because it's a matter that - a lot of the things that the bankers or the Wall Street bad players did were not necessarily illegal. He said that they were immoral, perhaps, and reckless, but not prosecutable. And so he put in another push for his consumer protection agency, which there's going to be a vote on Richard Cordray today in the Senate Banking Committee, and said that - urged Republicans and Congress not to try to roll back the protections in the Dodd-Frank law.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Brian Naylor, thank you very much. This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.