WASHINGTON -- Progressive Democrats are launching a tour to call for good jobs for the working and middle classes, putting pressure on House Republicans and President Barack Obama to push for more job measures.
"Let's get mad," Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said at a press conference. "Let's tell the man that we love in the White House to get off of his butt and start supporting some legislature for jobs. ... He's the best speaker in the world, and now we want some action."
But the Democrats saved their harshest words for House Republicans, whom Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) called "spineless" in their support for tax cuts and subsidies.
Balwin, Conyers and other members of the House Progressive Caucus will participate in a 12-city tour this summer to discuss jobs and how to get the middle class back to work. The tour will launch on Saturday at Netroots Nation in Minneapolis.
In Washington, Republicans and Democrats are engaged in negotiations with the White House over raising the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department said must be done by Aug. 2 to prevent the government from defaulting on its loans. While many Democrats called for a "clean" debt ceiling increase, Republicans have said they will only approve raising the debt ceiling if it is paired to major cuts to shrink the deficit.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is representing House Republicans in debt talks with Vice President Joe Biden, said Monday that his conference will not support tax changes as part of a final deal.
The tour will push for job measures for the middle class as a means of deficit reduction, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said at the press conference.
"There are 15 million Americans out there, and millions of them who are getting unemployment checks would instead love to be paying taxes and lowering the deficit in America," she said.
Renee Penny, an unemployed woman who lives in Tennessee, said she would be happy to pay taxes to help bring down the deficit but right now is just focused on getting by. Penny, who is in her 50s and widowed, was laid off from her job at an auto plant in November 2009 and has been out of work since then.
She said she is still in her home because of unemployment benefits, but said she is not sure what she will do if she is still unemployed when they run out at the end of the year.
"I don't understand why they would put our lives and our families lives on the line here when we're getting thrown out on the streets," Penny said.
On the tour, progressive members of Congress will hear from men and women who, like Penny, are unemployed or underemployed and are struggling to remain a part of the middle class.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said the group has already proposed jobs bills, but they have been unable to move through a divided congress. The tour is meant to bring more attention to the plight of the middle-and working-classes, he said.
"The American dream used to really mean something," he said. "But right now the economy works only for the rich, not for the rest of us, a big reason why the big corporations and their lobbyists use their wealth and power to write the rules in Congress. It works for them, but not for us."
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