President Barack Obama flew to Texas on Thursday to put his focus back on job creation and economic growth after concentrating on gun control legislation and immigration reform in recent months. Obama is due to hold events around the country to draw attention to his efforts to boost economic growth through jobs that benefit the middle class, a White House official said.
The trip comes as a poll shows Americans say what they want most from politicians in Washington is job creation and action that will help the economy grow.
In a visit to the Austin, Texas, area, Obama was due to visit Applied Materials, which makes semiconductors and other technology, and a high school focused on math and science. He also will meet residents and entrepreneurs. The jobs tour follows some policy frustrations for Obama. He failed to persuade Congress to accept expanded background checks for gun buyers, a disappointing setback to his efforts to toughen gun rules after the December murders of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
He also is at an impasse with congressional Republicans over a deficit reduction deal that he insists should include higher tax revenues, which Republicans oppose. The president does appear to be making headway in his efforts to change immigration laws to open a path to citizenship for a portion of the 11 million people who are in the United States without proper documentation. However, final legislation is months off.
In the meantime, a Gallup poll released Tuesday found 86 percent of those surveyed this month ranked creating jobs as their top priority for action by Congress and Obama, tied at 86 percent with helping the economy grow.
Lower on the priority list were reducing the federal deficit at 69 percent, reforming the tax code at 59 percent, reducing gun violence at 55 percent and reforming immigration at 50 percent.
The U.S. economy is recovering slowly after the deep recession of 2007-2009. Despite some encouraging signs of economic resurgence, such as stock market record highs, the jobless rate, while falling, remains at an elevated 7.5 percent.
A top Republican attacked Obama on Thursday for failing to generate stronger economic growth with his policies.
"That's the Obama economy," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "Well, I hope the president is traveling to Austin today because he's finally serious about turning that around - about changing course and implementing policies that might actually work to get the economy moving again."
McConnell singled out Obama's signature healthcare legislation as an obstacle he said was preventing businesses from hiring workers. He said congressional Republicans would not name members of a panel intended to achieve cost savings in the Medicare healthcare program.
"We know that will lead to access problems, waiting lists, and denied care for seniors - what most people would call rationing," McConnell said.
The president will announce a competition for locations to site three manufacturing institutes where businesses, government and educational institutions will get funding to develop new technologies, the White House official said. He will also issue an executive order requiring that newly released government data be made freely available in easily readable formats.
Obama's jobs tour also is likely to be a chance for him to argue that across-the-board spending cuts referred to as sequestration that went into effect March 1 are slowing economic growth and should be replaced. The spending reductions went into force after congressional Republicans balked at the president's insistence that any alternative spending cuts be offset by some tax increases. Some Republicans have welcomed the cuts as necessary austerity measures to check government overspending.