MESQUITE, Texas (AP) _ President Barack Obama is naming names. First he singled out House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. On Tuesday, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., came in for a presidential scolding as Obama used an economic sales pitch in Texas to criticize the House majority leader for refusing to take up the president's jobs bill.
“Eric Cantor said that right now, he won't even let this jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. That's what he said. Won't even let it be debated,'' Obama said in a speech at a community college in Mesquite, a Dallas suburb. “Think about that. What's the problem? Do they not have the time? They just had a week off. Is it inconvenient?''
“At least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where members of Congress stand,'' the president said. “Put your cards on the table.''
Even as Obama spoke, McConnell was attempting to call his bluff by pushing for a quick Senate vote on the jobs bill, which Senate Democrats have acknowledged doesn't have the support to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid objected so he could delay action until Democrats can corral more support.
It underscored Obama's dilemma as he travels the country seeking to isolate Republicans to take the blame if his jobs bill doesn't pass _ without a clear strategy for ensuring it does.
The approach puts the Obama administration at risk of appearing to use the president's $447 billion jobs bill as a political weapon rather than as a means of fixing the nation's economic woes and putting Americans back to work.
And it relies heavily on the assumption that the public won't also hold Obama accountable if he can't get Congress to act.
Obama spoke a day after Cantor said that while the plan contained elements that Republicans could support, “this all or nothing approach is unreasonable.''
Cantor's spokesman, Brad Dayspring, disputed Obama's criticism.
“If House Republicans sent our plan for America's job creators to the president, would he promise not to veto it in its entirety? Would he travel district to district and explain why he'd block such common-sense ideas to create jobs?'' Dayspring said. “House Republicans have different ideas on how to grow the economy and create jobs, but that shouldn't prevent us from trying to find areas of common ground with the president.''
The president charges that it's Republicans who won't work with him.
“I realize that some Republicans in Washington are resistant, partly because I proposed it. If I took the party platform and proposed it, they'd suddenly be against it,'' he said Tuesday.
Yet the president's efforts to negotiate the bill with the opposition on Capitol Hill have been at most limited.
Unlike earlier legislative fights, there are no formal negotiations taking place between the White House and congressional leaders over how to advance the bill. No one in the administration has been named to work with Congress on the measure. And the president hasn't discussed the bill with congressional leaders since formally unveiling it about a month ago.
Instead, he is focusing on trying to sell the bill to the American people during speeches across the country, and asking listeners to pressure Republicans to back it.
“Do your job, Congress!'' Obama chided Tuesday and exhorted his supporters: “I need you all to lift up your voice.''
By the time Obama got to his refrain of “Pass this bill!'' the crowd in a packed gymnasium at Eastfield College was on its feet.
But Washington's harshly partisan atmosphere makes the prospect of Republican support uncertain. Given that reality, senior administration officials are working to lay the groundwork now for ultimately placing the blame for the bill's failure on the GOP.
In order for that strategy to succeed, the White House must convince the public that the president bears little responsibility for a stalemate on Capitol Hill, a strategy that hasn't entirely succeeded in other partisan battles this year. The president's approval rating has fallen to new lows after fighting between the White House and Congress brought the country to the brink of both a government shutdown and a government default.
That's part of the reason the White House wants to take a different approach this time around. Instead of calling congressional leaders to the White House for a series of negotiations that put some of the onus for a resolution on Obama, the president sent Congress a full bill and said now is the time for them to act.
House Republicans say only parts of the bill will get votes on the floor, not the entire measure. Acknowledging that possibility, the White House is spending significant time touting individual aspects of the bill.
In Texas Tuesday, Obama focused on the bill's education benefits. The White House says the measure would prevent the layoff of up to 280,000 teachers across the country and help modernize at least 35,000 public schools and community colleges.
The president's trip to Texas took him to the home state of Gov. Rick Perry, one of the top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. The community college where Obama spoke is also in the district of Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chairman of the congressional supercommittee on deficit reduction.
Since announcing his jobs plan Sept. 8, Obama has pitched the proposal in front of a bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky, the home states of Boehner and McConnell. And he spoke in Cantor's district in Richmond, Va.
Obama was raising money Tuesday at four events that were taking in a rough minimum of nearly $2 million for the Obama Victory Fund, a joint account of the Democratic National Committee and the president's re-election campaign. Ticket prices at two fundraising lunches in Dallas and two events later Tuesday in St. Louis ranged from $250 to the legal maximum of $35,800.
A Republican-aligned group planned to follow Obama's travels with critical ads in cities where the president pitches his jobs plan. The group, American Crossroads, began with ads in St. Louis attacking Obama's plan to raise tax revenue to pay for his jobs plan.