By Sam Youngman and Erik Wasson - 09/05/11 08:15 PM EDT
DETROIT -- With his highly-anticipated jobs speech scheduled for Thursday, President Obama used Labor Day to fire up his base and put Republicans on notice.
Obama, speaking to an estimated crowd of 13,000 on the Detroit River here, offered a slight preview of his jobs speech, castigating Republicans for not signing on to infrastructure spending that he will propose on Thursday.
"We're going to see if we've got some straight-shooters in Congress," Obama said. "We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party."
The president said that the time is now for Washington to work together to deal with the economic crisis, and not spend time on a "manufactured crisis" like the debt-ceiling debate. "The time for Washington games is over," Obama said.
He challenged the GOP to get on board with his plan to extend payroll tax cuts.
“You say you are the party of tax cuts,” he said. “Well then, prove you’ll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans. Show us what you got.”
The president hinted at the infrastructure spending that will be included in his proposal.
"We've got roads and bridges across the country that need rebuilding," he said.
"We've got private companies with equipment and manpower. We've got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty. There is work to be done and workers to do it," Obama said.
"Labor's on board; business is on board," the president said. "We just need Congress to get on board and put America back to work."
Obama said he is hopeful that Republicans will join him in looking for ways to create jobs, but he warned "we're not gonna wait for them."
Under cloudy and cool skies, the president was met by a friendly, union-heavy crowd that repeatedly interrupted his speech with chants of "Four more years!"
The president touted what he has done for unionized workers, saying the gains for the labor movement are gains that benefit all of America.
“As long as I'm in the White House, I'm going to stand up for collective bargaining,” he vowed.
Obama also claimed credit for saving the auto industry through a massive bailout and for helping steer it towards a green future.
"We stood by the auto industry and we made some tough choices that were necessary to succeed,” he said. "And now the Big Three is turning a profit and hiring workers and building the best cars, right here in Detroit, right here in the Midwest, right here in the United States of America."
The president acknowledged the tough economic times the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the nation are weathering, but he said America's best days are ahead.
"It's like the commercial says: This city has been to heck and back,"
Obama said. "And while there are a lot of challenges here, I see a city
that is coming back."
"Yes we're going through some tough times, but we've been through tough times before," Obama said. "I don't know about you, but I'm not scared of tough times."
This story was first published at 2:28 p.m. and has been updated.