MESQUITE -- President Barack Obama urged North Texans to call, tweet, fax and e-mail their members of Congress about his $450 billion jobs bill and ridiculed Republican leaders for blocking the measure during a speech Tuesday.
"The time for gridlock and games is over," he told hundreds of students at Eastfield College in Mesquite. "The time for action is now."
Obama did not mention Gov. Rick Perry while in the Republican presidential candidate's back yard, but he did find ways to highlight how the economic downturn has affected Texas and suggested that recent budget cuts endorsed by Perry have made the situation worse.
Most notably, Kimberly Russell, a recently laid-off Dallas school district social studies teacher, introduced Obama.
"My position was being paid for by federal stimulus funding and the funding was exhausted," Russell said.
The single mother spoke about her 10-year-old son and how she is having trouble keeping her house before urging Congress to pass Obama's jobs bill to "help teachers like me and others get back to work soon."
When she introduced Obama, the more than 1,500 in attendance exploded in cheers.
"Teachers like Kim are why I came here today," Obama said. "Teachers like Kim and her former students."
Said the president: "Here in Dallas and all over the state of Texas, you've seen too many teachers lose their jobs because of budget cuts."
Obama said his jobs bill is geared to shrink payroll taxes; spend money on public projects to help keep teachers, firefighters and police officers employed; and extend benefits to those who are unemployed. He said he plans to pay for the changes by closing corporate tax loopholes and raising taxes on some wealthier Americans.
Obama directed part of his speech at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who has said recently that the bill is dead.
"Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas, look Kim Russell in the eye and tell her why she doesn't deserve to be back in the classroom doing what she loves, helping our kids," Obama said. "Come tell her students why they don't deserve to have their teacher back ... why you'd rather defend tax breaks for folks that don't need them, for millionaires, rather than tax cuts for middle-class families."
'Give me a break'
Obama derided Republicans who don't want to pass his bill because they don't want to "give the president a win."
"Give me a win? Give me a break," Obama said, prompting a standing ovation as he closed out his address.
Tickets to the speech were largely given to the school's students, faculty and staff. Some students said they waited four hours Monday to get tickets and then over two hours Tuesday to get inside the event.
Obama attended two fundraisers in Dallas after Air Force One touched down at 11 a.m., before heading out to Eastfield College later in the afternoon.
During his luncheon fundraisers, which drew attendees ranging from former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith to former Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender, Obama told donors that Democrats need to recapture the enthusiasm of the 2008 presidential campaign.
"In 2008, we were running against something," he said. "Now we're running for something.
"It won't be as sexy as 2008," he said. "Back then, I didn't have any gray hair. ... Now I'm dinged up ... [but] my enthusiasm and my faith in America is unabated."
Perry's campaign echoed many other Republican leaders in a "Welcome to Texas" statement.
"If President Obama was serious about job creation, he would use the Texas model of low taxes and limited government that has created almost 40 percent of all jobs in America since June 2009," said Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry's campaign. "Billions of dollars in spending is not the answer to turning around the nation's economic troubles created by the president."
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, who attended one of the Obama fundraisers Tuesday, said the president's presence in Texas is significant.
"It really shows ... that Gov. Perry wasn't quite ready for prime time -- and [Obama is] for real," Richie said. "He's coming into Perry's back yard and he's going to do much better than people think."
Obama's visit was his second in North Texas since becoming president. His last trip came in August 2010, when he attended a $15,000-a-plate fundraiser in Highland Park.
Lobbying for F-16 jobs
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican, was among a handful of elected officials that briefly met with Obama after the speech. Whitley said he was invited by the Obama administration as a former president of the National Association of Counties.
Whitley used his moment with Obama to urge him to rethink his recent decision to block Taiwan from buying Fort Worth-built F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Whitley also encouraged Obama to approve a federal loan to jump-start a shovel-ready highway project.
"Jobs are jobs, and you can't pass up the chance to get your message in front of the president," Whitley said.
After his speech, Obama also met 6-year-old Noah Cathey, who dressed in a black suit for the event. "He came by and said 'Hi, little man' and gave me a high five," Noah said proudly.
Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610