President Obama requested a Sept. 8 joint session of Congress, the White House said, where he will formally unveil a set a proposals to revive the flagging economy and create more jobs.
That raises the profile on his jobs plan, which Obama has said will include transportation infrastructure investments. Obama originally requested a Sept. 7 appearance but changed the date at the request of House Speaker John Boehner.
Presidential speeches to Congress are rare outside of the annual state of the union address, and usually reserved for major issues a president wants to highlight. They also give the president a dominant news forum, and are carried live by major television networks, but he must ask congressional leaders for that podium.
Earlier today, Obama said he wants Congress to quickly approve a clean extension of surface transportation programs that expire at the end of September, along with a mid-September deadline to extend aviation programs. Otherwise, he said, thousands of jobs could be lost along with hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation tax receipts.
Those two steps would protect transport funding at current levels for a while longer, and give the president a chance to separately detail his new ideas for short-term spending to aid the economy’s halting recovery. He has said he will offer job proposals that should enjoy bipartisan support.
Obama today said that when Congress returns, in addition to extending the expiring programs, “we’re going to have to have a serious conversation in this country about making real, lasting investments in our infrastructure.”
Those include putting more money into a range of things, Obama said, “from better ports to a smarter electric grid, from high-speed Internet to high-speed rail.”
He also said that “when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure – our roads, our railways, mass transit, airports -- we shouldn’t be playing patch up or catch up. We should be leading the world.”
The decline in U.S. transportation quality and investment in the past decade, he said, “is unacceptable for a nation that’s always dreamed big and built big, from transcontinental railroads to the Interstate Highway System.”