ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
GUY RAZ, HOST:
And I'm Guy Raz. After weeks of falling poll numbers, President Obama got some good news this week. Two nationwide polls show his approval rating has inched up a few percentage points. The rise coincides with the month long nationwide campaign by the president, pressing Congress to pass his stalled jobs bill.
His latest stop in that effort was here in Washington today. As NPR's David Welna reports now, it comes on the eve of a vote in which Senate Republicans are expected to block a key part of that bill.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: As he spoke to supporters along the Potomac River near Key Bridge, President Obama did something unusual. He got personal. It happened while he was venting his frustration with congressional Republicans for blocking a jobs bill that aims, among other things, to rebuild crumbling bridges.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can't imagine that Speaker Boehner wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges is classified as substandard. I'm sure that the Speaker of the House would want to have bridges and roads in his state that are up to par.
WELNA: The president also called out by name Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and he vowed his administration will act on its own to speed up the approval and financing of public works projects.
OBAMA: I've said that I'll do everything in my power to act on behalf of the American people, with or without Congress. We can't wait for Congress to do its job. If they won't act, I will.
WENDY SCHILLER: I think President Obama is taking a page right out of Bill Clinton's playbook, circa late 1995, early 1996.
WELNA: That's Brown University congressional expert Wendy Schiller. She says, after being attacked personally for years by opponents, President Obama is turning the tables, much as Bill Clinton did in the run up to his re-election.
SCHILLER: And he's saying, listen, if you're going to attack me and you're going to block me and you're not going to work with me, then I'm going to come at you with everything that I've got and my strongest weapon, of course, is my party base, you know, the Democratic Party. I'm a Democratic president and I'm going to go for it and mobilize my base, at the same time, letting the voters know that I'm trying to help you and the Republicans are not and here are the names and the faces and the specific members of Congress who are standing in our way.
WELNA: As if to underscore the White House message that Republicans are playing politics with the jobs bill, the only Republican in the Obama Cabinet spoke at the capitol this afternoon. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had a sharp message for his erstwhile GOP colleagues in Congress.
SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD: Let's put the pure, hard core politics thinking about the next election aside for one day, for one vote and say, what's good for the American people?
WELNA: That one vote is to take place tomorrow in the Senate. It's on a bill spending $60 billion on rebuilding transportation infrastructure paid for by a new tax of seven-tenths of one percent on personal income over $1 million.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today made clear he expected Republicans will block the measure.
SENATOR HARRY REID: Our Republican colleagues say they oppose this plan to hire hundreds of thousands of construction workers and rebuild our nation's collapsing infrastructure because they believe the wealthiest Americans can't afford to pay a few pennies more.
WELNA: And Senate Republican Leader McConnell also made clear he and his colleagues had no intention of letting the infrastructure bill move forward.
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: It's not exactly a state secret that Republicans and yes, some Democrats, don't think we should be raising taxes right now on the very people we're counting on to create the jobs that we need to get us out of the jobs crisis.
WELNA: And for Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, the president's jobs bill is about politics, not jobs.
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: This has, unfortunately, degenerated into an election year campaign where the president spends all his time out on the road campaigning rather than working with us to try to solve the nation's problems. And I think people get the joke and it's not a funny joke.
WELNA: Joke or not, the new poll numbers seem to indicate the president's strategy may be working. David Welna, NPR News, the capitol.
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