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President Obama's Jobs Plan

Aired September 8, 2011 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're getting ready for the president's big speech on jobs.

President Obama's about to be introduced to the U.S. Congress, members of the House and the Senate, they have gathered to hear the president of the United States deliver a major speech on job creation. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

I can't overemphasize how important potentially this speech for the president could be not only for his political future, but much more importantly for the American people because this country right now faces enormous economic problems, the unemployment rate right now in the United States, 9.1 percent. Fourteen million Americans unemployed, millions more underemployed, and millions more who are simply -- have simply given up hope of finding a job. And beyond all of that, there are millions of Americans who are deeply, deeply worried right now about losing their jobs.

The president's going to have to inspire them, is going to have to show that he can lead this country out of these economic -- this economic crisis that's unfolding in the United States right now. Members of the president's cabinet have just been introduced. You can see them walking in right now. John King is watching what's going on. He's up on Capitol Hill. After the members of the cabinet are introduced, it will only be a few moments before the president is introduced. He'll walk in, John, and he'll deliver his speech.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": He'll deliver his speech after getting applause and get greetings from the members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans will applaud and then the country will listen and the Congress will listen. You mentioned the importance of this speech. The president has a challenge here. Lay out the specifics of his plan to the Congress and try to regain the political initiative which he has lost in recent months.

Try to convince the Democrats his plan is the right plan. Many don't think it's bold enough. Try to convince the Republicans they must work with him even though they oppose some of the policy specifics, and Wolf, the way to do that is to change the political dynamic in the country by convincing the American people who are in a funk about the economy, who think it could get worse and who think Washington is broken and dysfunctional right now that at this moment they need to stand with their president even if they don't like all the details and push Washington to do something in the short term. Without help outside of Washington, the president won't get this done.

BLITZER: Our new CNN anchor Erin Burnett is joining us from New York as well. Erin, the whole gridlock, the whole problem that Washington can't seem to get anything done right now certainly has sent a message to some of the credit rating agencies and the U.S. AAA rating as we all know was downgraded somewhat. This is an important visual symbol to all of the -- not only the American business community, but the worldwide business community that maybe things in Washington can get -- that certain things can get accomplished.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, I think if you really have them come together, that would make a huge difference, and, yes, I think S&P, Standard and Poor's rating agency intentionally made that point, Wolf, when they did the downgrade, but I think that around the world, there are two sides to this. On one side America is still so admired. It is still by far the biggest economy in the world by a factor of three.

The rest of the world needs us and kind of says why can't you guys just shake this off and get this together. So, we come from a position of strength. But I would say today, Wolf, and I think the president may point this out, you had retailers today, you had construction companies, a lot of big business groups did step up and say they support what they think the president is going to propose tonight, so that potentially could help the Republicans.

BLITZER: And we know, Gloria Borger, Erin's going to stand by as we see members there, there's Gene Sperling, the president's economic adviser walking in as well. He's a member of the cabinet, the director of the National Economic Council. Once he's out it will be just a moment or so before the president himself is introduced by the Deputy Sergeant of Arms of the Congress.

Gloria, $450 billion, that's what we're told, that this package the president will announce tonight will cost. And Republicans no doubt quickly will say this is just more of the same old, same old. The economic stimulus package that they say didn't work two years ago, this is not going to work now --


BLITZER: -- either, and they'll dismiss it.

BORGER: To follow up on what David Gergen was saying, the Republicans are going to say it's too large. The folks at the White House understand that the Republicans are going to say that. But they also have a Democratic constituency they're trying to speak to as well, Wolf. So, I think what they're optimistic about what Jessica was talking about, what they're optimistic about is getting the, say, extension of the payroll tax cut for employees as well as employers. That would be something, for example, that Republicans have agreed to in the past, and they may agree to again.

But this also allows the White House to get on the record saying if we had our way, these are all the kinds of stimulus we would propose. But they don't expect to get all of it. My question, Wolf, is how quickly will they get any of it, because they need to get it done quickly and as you well know, that's not exactly the way Congress has been moving.

BLITZER: All right. You see the photographers coming in. Bill Livingood, the House Sergeant of Arms, he'll make the announcement. There he is right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like that. I like that. Tell her I said I appreciate that. How are you? I will.


OBAMA: Thank you.


OBAMA: Good to see you.



BLITZER: The president walking through a lot of those members they get there really, really early so they can be -- get a shot talking to the president, shaking hands, some of them kissing the president, they want to be seen by their constituents as well. There you see him shaking hands with some of the senators who are there getting ready and Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations. A lot of people come to these kinds of sessions early. I don't know which member of the cabinet was left behind. Usually they leave one behind. Arne Duncan we're told, the education secretary, was left behind -- in case there are some sort of national emergency, but there you see the president shaking hands with the vice president and the speaker of the House.

The president getting ready to deliver his address -- he presents the formal text of that speech to the two leaders up there, and let's listen in as the president gets ready to deliver this speech. This is a very warm, nice reception for the president of the United States.


BLITZER: He will be introduced by the speaker and then the president will speak. Let's just listen a little bit to the sights and watch the sights and listen to the sounds of the U.S. Congress.


OBAMA: Thank you so much. Everyone, please have a seat. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and fellow Americans, tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless and a political crisis that's made things worse.

This past week, reporters have been asking, "What will this speech mean for the president? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls and the next election?"

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don't care about politics. They have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by, giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage, postponing retirement to send a kid to college.

These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share, where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits, maybe a raise once in awhile. If you did the right thing, you could make it -- anybody could make it in America.

But for decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the decks too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington has not always put their interests first.

The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we'll meet ours. The question is whether -- in the face of an ongoing national crisis -- we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.


The question -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.

Those of us here tonight can't solve all our nation's woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives.

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, including many who sit here tonight, and everything in this bill will be paid for, everything.


The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. It will provide...


It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business.


It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that, if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.


Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven't. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for "job-creators," this plan's for you. Pass this jobs bill.


Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers' wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small-business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees...


If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that's an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

OBAMA: It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that's in this plan. You should pass it right away.


Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It's an outrage.

Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads, at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?




There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There's a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America, a public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country.

And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school, and we can give it to them, if we act now.


The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows, installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jump-start thousands of transportation projects all across the country.

And to make sure the money is properly spent, we're building on reforms we've already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more Bridges to Nowhere. We're cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we'll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it will do for the economy.


This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America's largest business organization and America's largest labor organization. It's the kind of proposal that's been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.


Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher.

But while they're adding teachers in places like South Korea, we're laying them off in droves. It's unfair to our kids; it undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.


Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America's veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.


OBAMA: Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents...


... their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job.


We -- we have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work. This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job.

The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year.


If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past. And in this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again, right away.


Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year, $1,500 that would have been taken out of your pocket will go into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year.

If we allow that tax cut to expire, if we refuse to act, middle- class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We can't let that happen.

I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away. (APPLAUSE)

This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people, and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small-business owners, and tax cuts for the middle-class.

And here's the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here's how.

(APPLAUSE) The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I'm asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I'll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan, a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.


This approach is basically the one I've been advocating for months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I've already signed into law, it's a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.


What's more, the spending cuts wouldn't happen so abruptly that they'd be a drag on our economy or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right away.

Now, I realize there are some in my party who don't think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here's the truth: Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years; they earn it.

But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don't gradually reform the system, while protecting current beneficiaries, it won't be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it.

OBAMA: I'm also...


I'm also well aware that there are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here's what every American knows: While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets.

Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share.


And, by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.

I'll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America.


So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, "What's the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?"

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies, or should we use that money to give small-business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can't afford to do both.

Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs?


Right now, we can't afford to do both.

This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare.


This is simple math. These are real choices. These are real choices that we've got to make. And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It's not even close. And it's time for us to do what's right for our future.


Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can't stop there. As I've argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future, an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security.

We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, and out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth.


This task, of making America more competitive for the long haul, that's a job for all of us, for government and for private companies, for states and for local communities, and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business.

My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you're a small-business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we're going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do right now.


We're also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing start-up companies from raising capital and going public.

OBAMA: And to help responsible homeowners, we're going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent. That's a step...


I know you guys must be for this, because that's a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family's pocket and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.

So some things we can do on our own. Other steps will require congressional action.

Today, you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That's the kind of action we need.

Now it's time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, and Colombia, and South Korea, while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition.


If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers.


I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words, "Made in America." That's what we need to get done.


And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America's businesses. That's why I've brought together a jobs council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.

Already, we've mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we're going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here in the United States of America.


If we provide the right incentives, the right support, and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules, we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world. That's how America can be number-one again. And that's how America will be number-one again.


Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.


And -- well, I agree that we can't afford wasteful spending, and I'll work with you, with Congress, to root it out. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it.


That's why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we've identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that commonsense test.


But what we can't do -- what I will not do -- is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades.


I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says, for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients.

OBAMA: I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.


We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top, and I believe we can win that race.


In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody's money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own, that's not who we are. That's not the story of America.

Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self- reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.

But there's always been another thread running throughout our history, a belief that we're all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our union, founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future, a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad, launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves: Where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges?

Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn't had that chance?

(APPLAUSE) How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?


No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been -- and always will be -- one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another.

And, members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.


Every proposal I've laid out tonight is the kind that's been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I've laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.

Now, I know there's been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan, or any jobs plan. Already, we're seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.

But know this: The next election is 14 months away. And the people who sent us here, the people who hired us to work for them, they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months.


OBAMA: Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.

I don't pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be -- nor will it be -- the last plan of action we propose. What's guided us from the start of this crisis hasn't been the search for a silver bullet. It's been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.

Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we'll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.


And I ask -- I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice, tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that, if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.

President Kennedy once said, "Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants."

These are difficult years for our country, but we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment, let's get to work, and let's show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.


Thank you very much. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


BLITZER: So, there it is, the president delivering his message to the American people, indeed to the world, including those members of the Senate and the House who were there on Capitol Hill. The president speaking for just more than half an hour, and ending his remarks with a warning to the Republicans who might not necessarily go ahead and support what he is proposing -- "You should pass it," he says, and he basically says, if you don't, I'm quoting him now, "I intend to take that message to every corner of this country," meaning he is going to try to do -- to get the American people to help him get this passed.

It's strong politically, important speech by the president. But more important, potentially, it's got some rhetoric.

There you can see the president moving forward, shaking hands with members of the Senate as he gets ready to go back to the White House.

John King watched it all unfold. He's up on Capitol Hill.

I haven't seen the president that fired up in a long time, John.

KING: A more political speech, Wolf, than you normally get from a president in that setting, a more bipartisan setting. But the president framing the contrast, laying out the choices, calling on Republicans to support him and set aside the polarized political environment in a moment.

A president who is in the past has given much more eloquent speeches chose here to use very plainspoken language, he used the same rhetorical refrain, pass this plan and pass it now. The president making the case the election is 14 months off. Let's get about this business now.

The question is right near the end of the speech he called on people not in Washington, Americans around the country to demand that Washington do something and do something now. Will the president get everything he proposed tonight? No. Is there an opportunity to get something in the near term, not next week, not next month, but around Thanksgiving or so? Possibly. Possibly.

The key question is, how did the president help his own political standing tonight to give him leverage in those tough negotiations that begin as soon as this speech is over, as soon as the president leaves that hall, Wolf?

BLITZER: And, Gloria Borger, the president went out of his way to say so many of the parts of his plan were -- at one point supported by a lot of Republicans that he's not bringing anything to the table that Republicans haven't supported in the past.

BORGER: Yes. He said it's been -- these things have been supported by Democrats and Republicans, and the important point, Wolf, is he said every proposal that he's laid out tonight is going to be paid for. We're not quite sure how.

But I -- in listening to this -- and you're right, the president was really fired up. He was talking to independent voters out there, Wolf, to the voters who have been so skeptical about this Congress, who say a pox on both your houses. And what the president did was say, look, I'm willing to take on Medicare. And a lot of people in my party don't want me to do that. But you Republicans have to be willing to do something on taxes. And I think that's something that's going to resonate with independent voters and we also heard he's going to take this on the road, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a $450 billion package that the president will formally introduce a week from Monday. It will go through the legislative process. With all the specific so-called scoring or review by the Congressional Budget Office. But he says it will be paid for and he's got more spending cuts in the works as well.

David Gergen, successful or not so successful, the president's presentation before a joint session of Congress?

GERGEN: Wolf, he was fired up and I think he fired up a lot of Democrats, and what they wanted to hear, a big package, bold, exactly what they wanted, but Republicans won't like this. Among other things, the president didn't even put a price tag on it publicly. He never really told us it might cost $450 billion.

You know, most Republicans say, hey, for months, we've been hearing from the White House and we believe we're basically broke, how can we afford $450 billion again?

So, I think it's going to bring a lot of division. I agree with John King. He's likely to get a smaller bill, but he ain't going to come anywhere close to $450 billion.

BLITZER: There the president walking out of the chamber of the House of Representatives. He'll be getting back into the motorcade, together with the first lady and heading back to the White House. We're told he's going to be watching football later tonight, the opening game of the NFL, the Saints and the Packers, the chairman, the speaker of the House gaveling this session and the members will leave.

But there's some breaking news we're following right now, and I want to pause for a second.

All right, let me just bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, on a very, very different note, we're getting some very concerning news right now about the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11. What are we learning?

YELLIN: Wolf, we've learned that there is a specific credible threat of some potential danger around 9/11 related to al Qaeda. I am told by a senior administration official that the president has been briefed about this. That he has directed that the intelligence community and that the administration take all necessary steps -- this is the language -- to ensure vigilance.

We've also, though, for days been asking the administration, as you have in your interview with the president, asked about any steps he has taken in anticipation of any events around 9/11, and the president has said and made clear that he has been in consistent briefings and taken preparations for any events that might occur around 9/11, and that there have been many meetings and briefings with his top advisers to protect the homeland for anything that might come on 9/11 and that they feel they are prepared.

But, again, that the president today has been briefed about a specific, credible threat around 9/11 and that the administration is taking all steps to ensure vigilance, Wolf.

WOLF: And as you say, the source suggesting that this specific credible threat on this, the tenth anniversary of 9/11, could involve targets in New York City and Washington, D.C.

We're checking in to getting more information on the nature of what would be described as the specific credible threats.

Let me bring in John King back.

John, I want to get back to the speech, the important speech, but this is breaking news we're following right now. A lot of people have been nervous about what al Qaeda might be planning to do on the tenth anniversary. We know that there were documents found in bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan that suggested he was really anxious for his supporters to plot some sort of tenth anniversary event against the United States.

But this will cause people to pause as we get ready for Sunday's tenth anniversary.

KING: And, of course, people were pausing and worrying about that in any event, Wolf, but this is an especially important sequencing because you mentioned the documents and from our reporting tonight and from what national security officials and intelligence officials are telling not only us in some detail but members in Congress on the intelligence committees in greater detail, yes, they started to worry about this threat, more worry about it, based on the documents seized in the bin Laden compound, but in recent days there has been significant additional chatter -- meaning monitoring, whether it is monitoring telephone conversations, cell phone conversations, other conversations, trafficking and communications back-and-forth between known terrorist cells and terrorist groups.

The increase in the chatter in recent days when you add that on to the unspecific threats that were discovered in the documents in the bin Laden compound have ratcheted this up a bit as we approach the 9/11 anniversary weekend, which is why you hear from the homeland security secretary, now the president of the United States. We are told key members of Congress being briefed as well.

No specific targets, but credible information about a possible threat, and, again, with an emphasis on New York and Washington. You mentioned those two towns, and, of course, you bring back the memories, the tough memories of that September day 10 years ago.

BLITZER: Yes. In a statement coming out of the Department of Homeland Security among other things, saying, "Regardless, we take all threat reporting seriously, and we have taken and will continue to taken and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise." Ending with this, "We continue to ask the American people to remain vigilant as we head into the weekend."

Gloria, this will certainly put a little damper on what's going on right now. People will wonder what should they do, should they go out, should they travel, should they go through business as usual or step back and wait to get through this weekend, Sunday representing the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

BORGER: Well, I think that the government and the Department of Homeland Security is prudently warning people to be vigilant and take notice of anything that seems awry. I mean, al Qaeda tends to take note as we know of anniversaries, and we do have one coming up on 9/11.

And so, it's really in a way not a surprise, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said there has been lots of, quote, chatter. Whether it is credible remains to be seen, but it clearly was credible enough to take it up the chain of command, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and only a couple of weeks ago when I interviewed President Obama, he said he was very concerned about all of this as well, especially this notion of a lone wolf type of al Qaeda sympathizer, terrorist perhaps, trying to do something around the tenth anniversary of 9/11, along the lines of what we saw in Norway not that long ago.

All right. We're going to have much more coming up on this story at the top of the hour, much more coming up. We're getting new information.

But I want to go back to the president's speech right now, on the effort to create jobs. David Gergen is once again joining us.

David, the president in making his case clearly warning the Republicans -- you know what, you have a chance right now, work with me, try to pass something, the stakes are enormous. If you don't, I'm going to go to the American people.

GERGEN: The White House very much believes, Wolf, that the Republicans have a danger point here, that as much damage as they did to the president in the debt ceiling fight, they also did a lot of damage to themselves, and there are Tea Party members of Congress, new members of Congress who actually may have some trouble back home unless there's less recalcitrance and more effort to work.

That's why you saw this more conciliatory effort by Speaker Boehner and Cantor, sending a letter to the president before the speech, indicating they might be willing to work with him. That's why John King has been able to come on and say, you know, there is a real prospect of getting something by Thanksgiving.

But when you look at the totality of what the president wants, the Republicans will resist basic elements of it. They'll be more inclined toward the tax cuts. But a lot of the spending, they'll say we've been here before, we saw it in stimulus one, it didn't really do much good, we're not going to spend a lot more money in stimulus two, you know, when we're basically broke.

BLITZER: There you see the shot at the U.S. Capitol. The president will be ready to get into the motorcade to head back to the White House.

John Avlon has been watching what's going on as well.

I noticed today that the first meeting of that so-called supercommittee, John, Senator Jon Kyl, one of the Republican members, said you know what, if there's any more discussion of additional cuts in defense spending, he basically said "I'm out of here, I'm not participating in this 12-member super committee." What do you make of that?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that was a real help the way to begin, didn't you think? That sort of immediately drawing the line in the sand when the whole point of the supercommittee is try to reason together with everything on the table?

Look, part of the president's speech tonight really was a rebuke to that whole approach to dealing with the deficit and the debt. Let's focus on the policy pieces here. Every single piece of legislation the president put forward he argued was bipartisan in nature, that had support in the past from both Republicans and Democrats.

And you could tick through, putting a price tag was probably a political mistake because it gives Republicans something to push against. But there was bipartisan applause for the idea of a public/private infrastructure bank, supported by the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce, giving companies tax incentives to hire veterans, free trade agreements for Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

So, the key of this president's speech in terms of the policy, not politics, but policy, was putting forward bipartisan policies that have been supported by both parties. That's what he needed to do to get the independents' attention, and it creates a rationale reason to make us think that this divided Congress has an obligation to get something done on the economy.

BLITZER: I want to play a little clip of what the president said. Stand by for a second. Listen to this.


OBAMA: The next election is 14 months away. And the people who sent us here, the people who hired us to work for them, they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months. Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.


BLITZER: You know what was interesting, and let me bring Jessica Yellin, our chief White House correspondent, into this -- it's interesting that so many times the Democrats stood in applause. You saw Joe Biden, the vice president, standing there, and the Republicans sat in silence, stony silence, and so many occasions during the president's half hour address.

YELLIN: And that's not surprising that the Republicans are going to object to many of the proposals he put out there. But let's remember the contrast, Wolf. Not so many weeks ago, this was a president we were constantly on air accusing of lacking specifics, constantly sounding gloomy and morose.

Tonight, he came on sounding feisty and flooded the zone with endless ideas and proposals, so some of them, most of them won't stick. But the idea here is that in the end, that we'll go out and campaign pushing for some of them to pass. He said in the first bit of his speech, just the top of the speech, he said "pass this plan" 15 times.

So, the idea is for the White House to either get some of it passed, and you can assume Republicans, he had that line where he said Republicans had taken a pledge never to raise taxes, don't break the pledge, just to oppose my idea of a payroll tax cut, which was, you know, a very persuasive line. I think you'll hear that repeated. Either get Republicans to pass it or go out and hit the campaign trail and use it against them throughout the campaign in 2012.

So he either has a policy win or a political issue -- and you'll see it used one way or the other, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, as you know, the Republican leadership decided they were not going to have a formal response to the president's address, as we look at live pictures up on Capitol Hill, the motorcade getting ready to take the president and first lady back to the White House.

Alex Castellanos, though, is a good Republican.

Let's get a little Republican reaction from you, Alex. What did you think of the president's remarks?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I thought it was one of the worst pregame shows I think I've ever seen. It was more of a lecture than a speech. And a lot of Republicans are going to look at that president's speech and say that it is more of the same, that it's just more spending than taxes, and that this president doesn't know where to draw the line.

John Avlon made the point that the president probably made a mistake by putting a price tag on it. Well, John, one of the problems in real life is that things do have price tags and we don't have any more money. And in real life, that's what bankrupts an economy.

AVLON: Alex --

CASTELLANOS: Excuse me, John -- there's a myth out there if Washington just worked together, we'd solve all our problems. A lot of Americans are concerned out there that Washington has been working together and that's why we have this massive debt, this crushing amount of regulations, taxes that killed business and jobs.

Remember, the mess we've got today, Washington worked together to create. So that's what Republicans are going to look, what actually works and solves our problems.

ALVON: Alex --


BLITZER: One at the same time.

AVLON: The problem is that kind of recitation of partisan talking points. That's the problem. When Americans look up and see Washington is dysfunctional because of hyper-partisanship and what the president deserves credit for is trying to put forward a plan that he says he can -- if the supercommittee does its job can help take away the costs and roots it in bipartisan proposals that is supported by both parties in the past.

So, just spinning and arguing for inaction is not an adequate response.

CASTELLANOS: Four hundred and fifty billion dollars, he shouldn't have spent the $700 billion last year -- $450 billion we don't have. If the president can find that for another stimulus that doesn't work, then why don't we use that to reduce the deficit instead of dumping it on our kids, yours and mine?

ALVON: Just more talking points.

CASTELLANOS: Debt is real. AVLON: Debt is real and you've got to deal with it. And, you know, rather than just defending tax cuts at all costs, how about closing loopholes? You know, when we talk about tax reform, that's an opportunity to deal with the deficit and the debt. So, let's embrace that. We talk about entitlement reform, as the president did tonight. That's actually to deal of the deficit and the debt. So, let's embrace it rather than just spinning it.

BLITZER: You know, David Gergen, the president says $450 billion price tag for these new initiatives will be paid for completely by other spending cuts as well as some tax increases. But you know the Republicans aren't going to vote for any tax increases.

GERGEN: Well, that's true. Let's be very clear, he did not mention a price tag tonight. That's what I thought was odd.

I mean, usually, when you put forward proposals, OK, here's how much it's going to cost and here's what we'll do with it. He's waiting until a week from Monday to tell us how much it's going to cost. It's the press that's reporting that. He didn't put it in the speech.

So, where he's going to find that? I'm not sure, Wolf. That's why I think that -- the Democrats are going to love a lot of this. And they're going to be independents, like John, who are going to say, you know, this is the right thing to do. It's very bipartisan.

Republicans are going to say, if it's so bipartisan, why didn't you invite us in and help us write this instead of just presenting this and saying you pass this or I'm going to beat you over the head on the hustings?

BLITZER: I just want to be precise about that $450 billion price tag. The press, David, we didn't just make it up. We got that number from White House officials. They are the ones who are telling us the price tag for this package will be $450 billion.

David, hold on. The motorcade is living to go back to the White House. We're going to stay on top of this story. We're going to stay on top of the breaking news story that we're following.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. Our coverage continues right now.