This Thursday at 7 p.m. President Barack Obama is set to address Congress and the nation when he’ll unveil his latest plan to create jobs. Already, a preview of the speech shows proposals consistent with the positions of influential groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. Both groups have spent millions to influence elections and policies. With that in mind, the Sunlight Foundation will cover the speech with live video, data and commentary at sunlightlive.com.
Some of the glimpses into Obama's plan were provided by the president himself during a Labor Day speech in Detroit. Obama said he would seek to rebuild infrastructure, open up markets and extend some tax cuts, the setting framing all three ideas as being in line with labor's desires.
“If you want to know who helped lay [the] cornerstones of an American middle class,” he said, while standing in front of supporters in bright-colored AFL-CIO-affiliated union shirts, “you just have to look for the union label.”
At the same time, Obama seemed to moderate his tone to appeal to business groups. Several ideas he previewed had as much in common with a jobs plan released that day by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as it did with union positions.
In his Monday speech, Obama promised to expand on three proposals when he speaks to Congress:
Rebuild Infrastructure – Obama cited this as an issue on which labor and business can agree, and it appears that they do. The Chamber supports building infrastructure would benefit from construction spending. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who spoke before Obama at the event on Monday, has had more than 60 scheduled appointments on White House grounds, according to White House records.
“Open Up New Markets” – This phrase, used by Obama with little explanation in the Labor Day speech, has been used to promote free trade agreements stalled by Congress. The Chamber supports the agreements; the unions, less so. The AFL-CIO has said it has "grave concerns" over a proposed Korean free trade pact, unless labor rights and American jobs are better protected. Korea itself has been lobbying heavily on this issue, foreign agent registration records show. Lobbyists working on behalf of the Korean government held scores of meetings with decision makers on the free trade agreement.
Extend Middle Class Payroll Tax Cuts – The Chamber’s plan recommends a one-time tax break for companies returning overseas profits — known as a repatriation holiday — and a break on capital gains taxes, but it probably won’t argue with a middle class tax cut. The AFL-CIO may not benefit directly from the cuts, but its members do.
Another measure, which the president didn’t mention on Monday, but that the White House supports, may also make an appearance on Thursday:
Re-Authorize the FAA – Along with infrastructure spending, the White House has been pushing Congress to fully re-authorize the FAA. The AFL-CIO and the Chamber both support this. Getting the Chamber’s support, or at least avoiding their ire, could be useful to Obama and other Democrats. In the 2010 cycle, the Chamber contributed or spent $33 million, according to data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. Almost all of that sum was spent on electioneering communications, often eleventh-hour television attack ads.
Obama will likely encounter opposition from the Tea Party and other like-minded groups, including Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which would prefer lower taxes and fewer government programs. AFP spent or contributed $1.5 million in the 2010 cycle, much of it on electioneering ads.
So, tune in at 7 p.m. Thursday as we cover the speech — and the influencers behind the scenes — live on sunlightlive.com.