FLETCHER, N.C. -- Rolling through small Southern towns in a campaign-style bus Monday, President Barack Obama pressed lawmakers back in Washington to start taking up pieces of his rejected jobs bill and mocked the Republicans who had shot it down in total. The Senate moved to vote soon on one part, a plan to help states hire teachers, but the proposal seemed doomed.
Deep in the mountains of politically important North Carolina, Obama soaked up the region's autumn beauty at the same time that he assailed foes of his jobs legislation, accusing them of failing to listen to the public.
Back at the Capitol, Senate Democrats announced they would act first on a single part of Obama's plan, a long-shot bid to help states hire teachers and police. A vote could come as soon as the end of the week. If not, it would probably fall into November because the Senate plans to take a break next week, even as Obama urges quick action.
In North Carolina, the president directed his most pointed remarks at Senate Republicans, who last week blocked action on his full $447 billion proposal combining tax cuts and new spending.
"Essentially they said no to you," Obama told a supportive crowd outside Asheville. Noting that Republicans will now get a chance to vote on elements of his jobs agenda one by one, he said: "Maybe they just couldn't understand the whole thing all at once. So we're going to break it up into bite-size pieces."
Republicans denounced the bus trip as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded campaign trip through two must-win states to try to bolster Obama's standing for the 2012 election.
As he traveled along on his imposing black bus, there was little denying the presidential politics at play at each stop. Over three days, Obama is covering the countryside of both North Carolina and Virginia, two traditionally GOP-leaning states that he won in 2008 on his campaign's ability to boost turnout among young people and black voters.
Senate Democrats unveiled the first individual bill, which would spend $30 billion to create or save education jobs and $5 billion to do the same for police and firefighters.
The money would come from a new half-percent tax on income over $1 million, a proposal vigorously opposed by GOP lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada promised a vote "as soon as possible." The outcome seemed clear: The plan is unlikely to gain the 60 votes it would need to proceed in the Senate. And it's a nonstarter in the Republican House.