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updated 9/13/2011 4:58:29 PM ET 2011-09-13T20:58:29

Imploring Congress to follow his lead, President Barack Obama on Tuesday lobbied lawmakers to adopt his nearly $450 billion jobs plan, promising it would help workers in the construction industry and rebuild schools in crumbling condition. Said Obama: "My question to Congress is, what on earth are we waiting for?"

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From a high school in the critical electoral state of Ohio, Obama delivered a fiery speech to plug his plan. The outdoor audience was receptive to the point of adopting his refrain and chanting it back to him, shouting: "Pass this bill!"

GOP leaders dismiss revenue-raising in Obama plan

The event had the feel of an Obama re-election event, right down to the music that played as Obama came out to speak, suit coat off and sleeves rolled up on a sunny day. He tailored his latest pitch to how his proposed legislation would help education, built around a $25 billion spending initiative for school renovations.

In Ohio alone, Obama said, the bill would create jobs for tens of thousands of constructions workers.

Yet Republican lawmakers who control the House flatly oppose his plans to pay for his plan by raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

In trying to win over the voting public and build pressure on Congress, Obama has made his pitch in Virginia, the home state of House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, and Ohio, home of House Speaker John Boehner. He will travel on Wednesday to North Carolina.

Republicans on Capitol Hill say the president is merely repackaging ideas they have already rejected. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama was essentially daring Republicans to vote against his ideas again. "I think most people see through all this," McConnell said.

Story: Obama: Jobs plan is insurance against a ‘recession’

Obama's jobs package would offer tax cuts for workers and employers by reducing the Social Security payroll tax. Spending elements include more money to hire teachers, rebuild schools and pay unemployment benefits. There are also tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.

He proposes to cover most of the cost, nearly $400 billion, by limiting the deductions on charitable contributions and other items that wealthy people can take. There's also $40 billion from closing oil and gas loopholes, $18 billion from hiking taxes on certain income made by fund managers, and $3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.

"We've got to make sure that everybody pays their fair share including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations," said Obama outside Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. "We've got to decide what our priorities are."

Story: Obama plan to pay for jobs program murky

Boehner and other Republicans grew notably more skeptical Monday once the White House announced plans to pay for the costly measure entirely with tax increases on the rich and corporations. In turn, Obama renewed his attack on the GOP, contending they're standing in the way just to deny him a political win.

The crowd booed.

"This isn't about giving me a win, it's about giving the American people a win," Obama said.

On the public works projects, Republicans have made clear they're eyeing such new spending askance, but Obama said such the money is needed to repair aging classrooms and bring students high-tech equipment, as well as employ construction workers and others.

The Fort Hayes campus that includes the high school underwent a $60 million renovation adding improvements including modern graphic design classrooms, one of which Obama toured before making remarks.

For Obama, some progress on the economy has become a political imperative as he approaches his re-election campaign with the economy stalled, unemployment at 9.1 percent and polls showing the public unhappy with his stewardship of the issue.

Video: Obama: ‘We can’t sit back and squabble’ (on this page)

Obama's top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said Tuesday that the White House wants Congress to act on the entire bill rather than approaching it piecemeal. "We're not in a negotiation to break up the package," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It's not an a la carte menu."

But later Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney made clear that the president would sign elements of the package into law in pieces, if needed, if that's what lawmakers send him. He said the White House would prefer the bill is not changed but that "we understand how Congress works."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Obama: ‘We can’t sit back and squabble’

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama: ‘We can’t sit back and squabble’

    >>> good evening. this is not what you want when you're trying to launch a recovery. today, the bank of america announced a plan to slash 30,000 american jobs and reportedly close a lot of branches in cities and across the countryside all over this country. the plan is designed to make sure bank of america survives and stays healthy, but it's the largest single u.s. lay-off of the year. at the same time, the president was out there again today selling his new jobs plan. he's fighting his own downward numbers and questions about becoming a one-term president. it's what we talked about in our exclusive conversation with the president at the white house at a critical time for him and this country.

    >> occurs to me we are sitting 30 feet from harry truman 's official white house portrait. members of your base are asking when are you going to get your harry truman on?

    >> well, look, harry truman ran against a do-nothing congress. this congress hasn't done much so far, but it still has an opportunity over the next several months to do something that helps the american people . and i want to give them a chance. i'm pleased to see that so far speaker boehner and some of the other republican leadership have said that some of the proposals i put forward deserve serious consideration. and i'm going to be open to any ideas they have in addition to how we are going to grow this economy, but what is not an option is doing nothing.

    >> did you come to a decision that what the country needs is in large part a good old public works bill?

    >> what i came to the conclusion is that given all the headwinds we have been seeing this year -- high gas prices as a result of the arab spring, the tsunami in japan which disrupted supply lines but probably most significantly what's been happening in europe and the turmoil that's taken place there, financial markets that are affecting what businesses are making decisions about here in the united states , that we need a boost. the plan that i put forward -- the american jobs act -- puts construction workers back to work, puts teachers back to work, puts our veterans who are coming home looking for a job back to work, the long-term unemployed back to work. it provides tax breaks for small businesses when they hire new employees. so this package, it's estimated, would help the economy grow by as much as an additional 2%. that could mean an additional 2 million jobs.

    >> all of this, of course, is if you get what you want in a highly toxic atmosphere and it sure looked to me from the outside like you went into the debt ceiling fight thinking, surely they will do the statesman-like thing, surely they won't go there. and it seemed to me as if speaker boehner was coming to you saying, look, if it were up to me, we would do this, but i've got this membership problem.

    >> right.

    >> and they went there. now that marks our politics.

    >> well, there is no doubt that we went to the brink in a way that was unacceptable. we are in an economic crisis and the fact that we made it worse here in washington is inexcusable. we can't sit back and squabble while the country is suffering.

    >> your approval, 44%. on your handling of the economy, 37%. voters now prefer a generic, as-yet-unnamed republican. and most americans now say that you are in something that you can't likely recover from. do you accept those numbers? do you have to wear those?

    >> well, look, you know, one of the things that i learned very early on is not to worry about polls. if i was worrying about polls i wouldn't be sitting here interviewing with you. as i recall when i was running for president, i was down about 30 points around this time in my first run for presidency. you know, the truth of the matter is the american people have gone through the worst economic crisis since the great depression. and they are understandably impatient and i can say to them, look, all the actions we have taken have been the right actions. if we hadn't taken those actions, things would be much worse, but the bottom line is unemployment is still at 9%. and there are still a lot of folks hurting out there. my job as president of the united states is not to worry about my job. my task is to worry about their job and their economic situation.

    >> you see what's out there. you see what's being said about you. what do you say to those americans who voted for that man on the poster that said "hope"?

    >> well, what i would say is that for the last two and a half to three years, we have been working tirelessly and nonstop to deal with the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. ultimately, i'm going to be judged by, you know, whether we have stayed focused on making sure that this economy is moving in the right direction. and like the captain of a ship in a storm, you know, when the ship is rocking and people are getting hurt, they're not going to be happy, no matter how good the captain's doing. now, my hope is that when we are on the other side of it, folks will look back and say, you know, he wasn't a bad captain of the ship. what i tell everybody i meet whether they voted for me or they didn't is this country always gets through these storms. we always right the ship. and we will this time as well.

    >> part of our conversation with the president at the white house . there is more on our website. today, by the way, the administration announced how they plan to pay for his new jobs plan through a series of previously proposed tax hikes that have all been raised by the white house in the past and rejected by republicans.

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