In Chesterfield, Virginia, President Obama stopped by Fire Station 9 to talk about the challenge facing police and fire fighters across the country.
In too many communities, local governments have made the choice to respond to tough economic times by cutting police forces and scaling back fire stations. Speaking to a crowd that included around 100 first responders, the President called the situation "dangerous":
Now, Chesterfield has been lucky. It isn't facing layoffs right now. But a lot of these guys have seen their pay frozen. You've got cities and states like Michigan and New Jersey that have had to lay off big chunks of their forces. That means that firefighters can't always get to fires before they become major fires. And that makes their job more dangerous. It means police officers can't respond to every crime. And when giving our children the best education possible we know is the ingredient for success in this new information and technology-rich economy, how can we be laying off teachers -- when other countries are hiring teachers in droves? It's unfair to our kids. It undermines our future.
The first piece of the American Jobs Act -- a $35 billion proposal to help keep teachers and first responders on the job-- is designed to tackle that problem and ensure that public safety isn't put at risk.
It is currently in the Senate.
And in Chesterfield, President Obama pressed Congress to take action right away:
[If] they vote against these proposals, if they say no to steps we know that will put people back to work right now, they're not going to have to answer to me -- they're going to have to answer to you. They're going to have to come down here and tell folks in Virginia and all across the country why people are going to have to cope with fewer first responders; why your kids can’t have teachers back in the classroom. They’re going to have to look construction workers in the eye and tell them why they’re sitting idle instead of rebuilding infrastructure that we know needs to be rebuilt.
Today, Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, announced that the legislation could see a vote as soon as Friday.