ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- President Barack Obama stood in a resurrected factory Wednesday, imploring lawmakers to work as hard as American blue-collar workers as he pitched his plan to jump-start manufacturing and expand opportunities for the middle class.
At an auto parts plant in Asheville the day after his State of the Union address, Obama argued that just a few changes -- such as investing in research and providing incentives for companies to do business in the United States -- could go a long way toward a resurgence in American manufacturing. "There's no magic bullet here, it's just some common-sense stuff. People still have to work hard," he said.
Joining him for the tour were workers from Linamar Corp., a Canadian-based company that moved into a defunct Volvo plant and has hired 160 workers at the Asheville plant, with plans to hire 40 more by the end of the year, Obama said.
"What's happening here is happening all around the country," Obama said. "Because just as it's becoming more and more expensive to do business in places like China, America is getting more competitive and more productive."
Obama is asking Congress for $1 billion to create a network of "manufacturing innovation institutes" -- partnerships among the private sector, the federal government and colleges. He's also advocating tougher enforcement of trade laws and new steps to open markets in Europe and Asia.
In Washington, Republican leaders opposed many of the details Obama set out for his second-term agenda.
"He advocated tax reform, but mostly as a way to increase the size of government, not as a way to increase our competitiveness," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said in a floor speech.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voiced doubts about Obama's plan for taxpayer-funded help for preschool for all 4- year-olds. In an interview, he said getting the federal government involved in early childhood education was "a good way to screw it up."
Boehner also would not commit to passing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, though doing so would be "somewhat helpful" to members of his party as they seek to regain support among Hispanics. "There's no magic potion that's going to solve our party's woes with Hispanics," he said.