Washington, Sep 9 (IANS): Facing low approval ratings amid a stalled economy, President Barack Obama has put forward a $447 billion jobs package, challenging Congress to shut down the "political circus" and pass it "right away."
"The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we'll meet ours," Obama said in a 34-minute speech to a joint session of the Congress as he offered his plan to jolt the economy and his re-election prospects in the process.
"The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy," he said.
"The question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning."
Obama said he will ask Congress to increase the $1.5 trillion target in deficit reduction being pursued by a special joint congressional committee to cover the cost of the American Jobs Act.
He said he will propose his own deficit-reduction plan Sep 19 that would reform entitlement programmes such as Medicare while changing the tax system to end loopholes, lower the corporate tax rate and increase taxes for the wealthy.
He also told Republicans he would take his case directly to the American people, and called on "every American who agrees to lift your voice and tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now."
"Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option," Obama said.
In essence, Obama resurrected his push for what the CNN called "grand bargain" -- a comprehensive deficit reduction package that includes all the drivers of government spending and deficits, including those traditionally favoured and protected by both parties.
Amid low expectations that his plan would prove fully palatable to the Republican-controlled House, Speaker John Boehner, who backed out of talks with Obama on a major deficit reduction-deal earlier this year, said the proposals the president outlined "merit consideration."
But he also said he hoped for serious consideration by the White House of Republican ideas.
Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Obama's proposal will present a "litmus test" for Republicans. "I hope they will show the American people that they are more interested in creating jobs than defeating President Obama."