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President Obama’s jobs speech to Congress – live

President Obama delivers a speech on jobs and the US economy to Congress – follow the action and reaction here live

6.02pm ET: Guess who’s coming to the big speech tonight? There are duelling parties of guests invited by the White House and Republicans to sit in the visitors gallery:

The guests who will be seated with First Lady Michelle Obama all point to elements of the president’s plan he will discuss tonight, a set of proposals he’s calling the “American Jobs Act.” Some of them also just so happen to hail from swing states that the White House wouldn’t mind garnering some favorable coverage in.

They include an Iowa business executive who took part in Obama’s recent Rural Economic Forum, a small business owner in Charlotte, North Carolina, a Navy veteran from Minnesota looking to re-enter the private sector workforce, and a Cleveland school teacher who could be laid off because of local budget cuts.

Preamble: Tonight President Obama delivers a crucial speech on his plans for the US economy and joblessness to a special joint session of Congress, to be televisied live at 7pm ET (midnight BST).

In the past Obama has relied on his ability to give a big, high profile speech to gain political momentum and assauge his critics. This time – with the American economy in the doldrums, unemployment stubbornly high at 9%, increased public discontent and intransigent opposition from the Republican opposition – Obama’s rhetorical skills may have met their match.

What can we expect from Obama’s speech? The emphasis will be solidly on jobs and job creation, the key political fact of the last 12 months as hopes for a recovery has first faded and then disappeared.

More specifically, according to the heavily trailed contents, Obama plans to offer some specific spending increases and tax cuts designed to restart job creation. How or if he can pay for them depends on how much he can win over the Republicans who control the House of Representatives.

With a presidential election looming next year, Republicans have little incentive to save Obama’s own job. But opinion polls show rising dissatisfaction with the response of the Republican party in Congress. While Obama’s popularity has slipped to new lows, he is still better liked that Congressional Republicans.

So what will we learn tonight? According to the Washington Post, not much blue sky as opposed to more of the same, with perhaps 0bn in new spending:

The president’s plan, in large part, will call for continuing current measures to stimulate the economy, including a 2 percentage-point payroll-tax cut and extended unemployment benefits, administration officials say. Obama is also likely to call for an additional tax cut for companies that hire workers. Those measures together could cost about 0 billion next year.

Obama is planning to propose 0 billion or more in spending on infrastructure, state and local aid, and programs that target people who have been unemployed for more than six months, according to officials and other people familiar with the deliberations.

Not only will he pledge new spending to spur hiring, he is also likely to call for overhauling the way the government spends money. This could include an infrastructure bank that would pool tens of billions of federal dollars with state or private money to build roads and commercial buildings and to rehabilitate schools. Obama has suggested that the initiatives could lead to the hiring of one million unemployed construction workers.

Will Republicans go for it? According to the New York Times, possibly some GOP members might like tax cuts:

This week, Senator Scott P Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts, became one of the first in his party to call the tax cut “a policy that we should all support.” Jon M Huntsman Jr, the former Utah governor who is running for president, has said he thinks the cut is a good idea.

On Wednesday, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, said that the tax cut “is something I supported in the past,” and that the matter “will be part of the discussions ongoing.” (Two weeks ago his spokesman, Brad Dayspring, said that Mr Cantor “has long believed that there are better ways to grow the economy and create jobs than temporary tax relief.”)

House Speaker John A Boehner also said Thursday morning, in response to a question concerning the tax relief, that he was open to what the president had to say.

For more background, my colleagues at the Guardian have put together two excellent guides to the economic data:

• How US unemployment has changed over time

• US unemployment mapped state by state

Before Obama starts speaking at 7pm ET we’ll be covering the build-up, the speech itself and the reaction, including a threatened response by Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann. And of course you can leave your comments below.

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