Piece by piece: Obama wants $35 billion for teachers, first-responders first

President Obama is returning to the road this week to press Congress to start passing the American Jobs Act, beginning with $35 billion for states to put teachers and first-responders to work.

But White House officials said Sunday that Obama will not be sending a separate piece of legislation to Congress, referring questions about the process to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Congress has a jump-start in producing legislative language because Obama submitted the American Jobs Act with the provisions contained within.

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Obama will implement the full-court press on the pieces of the jobs act as he embarks on another bus tour, this time hitting the critical battleground states of North Carolina and Virginia, two states Obama won in 2008 that are essential to his reelection strategy. 

Earnest said that neither state was selected for its political importance, though he acknowledged if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) gets the message from his home state that voters want the jobs bill passed immediately, then a "top priority of the trip will have been accomplished."

With the full $447 billion jobs bill suffering defeat in the Senate, Obama and his aides are moving to a second phase, publicly pushing for passage of the bill piece by piece.

The first piece Obama wants is $35 billion in aid for states to prevent the laying off of or support increased hiring of teachers, police officers and fire fighters, Earnest said.



While neither the trip nor the call for passing the jobs bill is new, the bus tour represents the first time Obama will be addressing crowds outside of Washington since the Occupy Wall Street movement gained momentum.


Reports over the weekend said that the Obama campaign is looking to capitalize on the movement, and Earnest's remarks on a conference call Sunday seemed to support those reports.

Earnest said that as Obama travels this week, the president will "continue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares" with Wall Street.

And using the popular refrain from the Occupy crowds, Earnest said that Obama will ensure “the interests of 99 percent of Americans… is well represented”

At the end of the trip, Earnest said, "the message will be clear: Pass the bill this week to protect the job of a North Carolina teacher, or come down here, look her in the eye and explain to her why protecting" tax cuts for the wealthy is more important than passing the jobs bill.