WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Monday to ditch blocking tactics and take bold action to boost hiring, using the emotive plight of unemployed war heroes to push an aspect of his jobs plan.
The US commander-in-chief, surrounded by veterans in the White House Rose Garden, called on the Senate to pass a bill offering tax credits to firms that hire jobless former service members, expected to be debated this week.
“This week Congress will have another chance to do the right thing,” Obama said, recalling that when he announced a plan to reward companies which hire veterans in September, both Republicans and Democrats stood to applaud.
“When these ideas come up for a vote this week … I expect both sides of the aisle to stand up for our veterans and vote in the affirmative,” Obama said.
“Our veterans did their jobs, it is time for Congress to do theirs,” he said, pushing the measure to help former soldiers in the week that America marks Veterans Day and honors those who fought its foreign wars.
“Bold action from Congress ultimately is the only way we’re going to put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work right now and rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead,” said Obama.
The fate of the bill, part of Obama’s wider $447 billion jobs package which has been blocked in the Senate, is uncertain.
Republicans and several Democrats from conservative states have already blocked passage of other aspects of the American Jobs Act which would have provided funding for teachers and firefighters and infrastructure spending.
Republicans, bent on depriving Obama of a second White House term, brand Obama’s jobs bill as a repeat of failed policies of splashing out government money to create jobs.
House of Representatives Republicans also accuse Democrats who control the Senate of stalling on their own ideas to help veterans.
White House officials, however, argue that Republican House bills would do little to help boost hiring now at a time of high unemployment.
Obama’s program would aid returning soldiers who have fought on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq and now face a 12.1 percent unemployment rate for veterans who fought following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Some 240,000 of those veterans are currently without work, and have a higher rate of unemployment than average Americans.
Obama’s plan would offer firms which hire veterans a maximum tax credit of $5,600. Those who hire disabled veterans could get a maximum credit of $9,600.
The White House also used executive powers Monday to help veterans, pioneering several online initiatives.
Veterans will also be offered a “gold card” to access personal help with their case at 3,000 US careers centers.