LAS VEGAS — Mixing policy and politics, President Barack Obama called on Congress Friday to expand a clean energy tax credit that could pay off in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling in his re-election campaign.
Obama told an audience at the University of Nevada that a $5 billion increase in clean energy manufacturing tax credits could generate nearly 40,000 jobs. Some of those could arrive in Nevada, where 14 percent unemployment threatens to undermine Reid's argument that his position as majority leader pays dividends to his state.
"If an American company wants to create jobs and grow, we should be there to help them do it," Obama said.
Reid, who is seeking a fifth term, has been pushing hard for investments in solar energy to capitalize on his home state's scorching climate. He's had some success attracting projects to the state, but he and other Democrats are battling uphill going into November's critical midterms.
While Obama applauded both Democrats and Republicans for supporting his call for the expanded tax credits, he took a swipe at GOP lawmakers, saying similar bipartisan support has been absent from many of the other efforts he and Reid have promoted, from the massive health care overhaul to Wall Street reform.
"At every turn, we've met opposition and obstruction from leaders across the aisle," he said.
The president wrapped up his two-day swing through Missouri and Nevada by telling voters in econonomically pressed Nevada that the recovery is heading in the right direction, thanks in part to Reid's leadership.
"Harry was willing to lead those fights because he knew we had to change course, that to do nothing, to simply continue the policies that were in place, would mean an even greater disaster," Obama said.
With national unemployment hovering near 10 percent, and expected to remain around that level through the end of the year, administration officials know the president's message on the economy is a tough sell – convincing Americans that the economy would be a lot worse without the president's policies, most notably the $862 billion economic stimulus.
With November closing in, Obama has seized on a populist, partisan theme, setting up the election as a choice between the Republican policies he says caused the economic meltdown and his own policies that he argues have spurred a recovery.