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Disgruntled liberals are looking to the president to use his bully pulpit Thursday night to force Republicans' hand on spending programs to boost job growth.
"We send a message to the president: Mr. President, in two days be bold. Hit it out of the park," House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra said Tuesday.
The call to arms by the California lawmaker, a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction and of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, came at a briefing during which the party's top brass called on Obama to push for infrastructure spending and assistance for military veterans to help lower the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate. The leaders took advantage of the sleepy Tuesday before the House returned from a lengthy recess to begin their campaign for Thursday's speech.
"There's a lot that we can do, that Congress can do in a very short time," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.
Democratic skepticism, particularly among House liberals, reached a peak during last year's negotiations to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and more recently in July during negotiations to raise the debt limit.
The ensuing debt deal was dubbed a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich" by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.
"So he's got to inspire the legions of the unemployed to stand up and begin to growl about their conditions," the Missouri Democrat said Tuesday.
Cleaver joined the CBC's multi-city campaign last month to boost job growth among blacks but said he didn't expect to use similarly strong language to describe the jobs plan Obama will unveil Thursday.
"We're going into the joint session with a plan to support the president's proposals because we believe that they are going to be bold and grand," Cleaver said. "Members of Congress, including progressives, I think are convinced that the president is going to present a good but very strong proposal."
Still, that didn't stop members of the CBC, Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus and Progressive Caucus from requesting a meeting with Obama ahead of Thursday's speech. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the lone Senator in the Progressive Caucus, went further in an interview by laying out what he wants to hear from his former Senate colleague.