President Obama said Monday that congressional Republicans must put their country ahead of their party and vote to create new jobs as he used a boisterous Labor Day rally to aim a partisan barb at the GOP.
In a preview of the jobs speech he will deliver on Thursday to Congress, Obama said there are numerous roads and bridges that need rebuilding in the U.S., and over 1 million unemployed construction workers who are available to build them.
"When you heard him talking about construction workers ready to get dirty that's a signal that part of his jobs package is going to include additional federal support for public works projects for rebuilding those roads and bridges that he talked about," NPR's Scott Horsley told Robert Siegel, host of All Things Considered. "He also talked about the renewal of the middle class tax cut that was extended just for one year and if it's not extended, it's due to expire at the end of this year."
Obama said that with widespread suffering, "the time for Washington games is over" and lawmakers must move quickly to create jobs.
"But we're not going wait for them," he said at an annual event sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO. "We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress. We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.
"Show us what you've got," Obama said.
Throughout the speech, the union crowd kept chanting "four more years."
"What we heard from the president today was a pretty full-throated defense of the role that organized labor has played in everything from the 40-hour workweek to higher living standards for working Americans," NPR's Horsley said.
Obama's remarks came as he has been under heavy criticism from the GOP for presiding over a persistently weak economy and high unemployment. Last Friday's dismal jobs report showed that employers added no jobs in August. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, held steady at 9.1 percent.
The disappointing report sparked new fears of a second recession and injected fresh urgency into efforts by Obama to help get millions of unemployed people back into the labor market and help improve his re-election chances.
Polls show the economy and jobs are the public's top concerns. Public approval of Obama's handling of the economy hit a new low of 26 percent in a recent Gallup survey.
The unemployment report also gave Obama's Republican critics, including those who want to challenge him in next year's presidential election, fresh ammunition to pound him with.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the report disappointing, unacceptable and "further proof that President Obama has failed." Romney is scheduled to outline his own job-creation plan in a speech Tuesday in the battleground state of Nevada.
In the speech to Congress, Obama is expected to call for a mix of individual and business tax credits and public works spending. He will also press lawmakers for swift action on those proposals.
The day after his address to Congress, Obama plans to visit Richmond, Va. part of which is represented by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., one of the president's fiercest critics. Obama plans to spend a "decent amount of time" traveling the country to encourage support for his job creation plan, said deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
"These are bipartisan ideas that ought to be the kind of proposals that everybody can get behind, no matter what your political affiliation might be," Obama said last week. "So my hope and expectation is that we can put country before party and get something done for the American people."
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Monday that both political parties should get behind Obama's efforts to improve the hiring picture.
"We do need everyone to be on board," she said on NBC's Today show.
Solis said Obama "is very mindful of what the needs and concerns are of those individuals who have been out of work for so long." But she also said the jobless have a responsibility to seek training in new skills, if necessary, to better prepare themselves for the kinds of jobs available in today's economy.
Obama spent part of the holiday weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland "putting the finishing touches" on the proposals and the speech, said spokesman Jay Carney.
"That process continues over the next few days, but he's very far along," Carney said.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report