NEWTON — President Barack Obama returned to this Midwestern manufacturing town Thursday, three years after his last visit, to reaffirm his commitment to renewable energy, calling on Republican rivals to support new tax credits for companies that produce wind power.
Obama used an appearance at TPI Composites, which makes blades for wind turbines, to emphasize his campaign message that his administration is focused on economic growth that promotes a strong, enduring middle class.
After touring the company, Obama told a crowd of supporters on the factory floor that the tax credits first enacted in 2009 as part of his economic stimulus are set to expire if Congress does not pass an extension by year’s end. Without the tax break, up to 37,000 jobs could be lost, according to administration officials and industry experts.
“If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit,” Obama said. “Jobs will be lost. That’s not a guess. That’s a fact. We can’t let that happen.”
In March, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was among a group of senators who called for a two-year extension of the tax credit. But in a statement Wednesday, Grassley criticized Obama for stumping for the plan in the senator’s home state rather than directly discussing the proposal with congressional leaders.
“The president could exert his leadership by working with Congress on a way forward instead of calling for a provision that’s a no-brainer for many of us,” Grassley said. “He’s focusing on the easy part of a bigger task. The stakes for the wind industry and the country in general will only get worse with delay. It’s time to act, not politick.”
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, said he was disappointed Obama chose to “politicize” the production tax credit for wind energy — which he supports — during his Iowa swing. He called the president’s Iowa visit “nothing more than an attempt to distract voters from his dismal economic record.”
Obama chose to visit TPI Composites, which underwent a major downsizing six years ago, because the company used the tax credit to help build a new facility in Newton and now employs 700 workers, officials said.
The Newton visit was considered a presidential policy event by the White House, separate from a campaign stop last night at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.The Republican Party of Iowa, however, said it sees little difference.
“Taxpayers in Iowa are fed up with having to finance President Obama’s campaign stops while at the same time they are suffering as a result of his failed economic policies,” GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker said in a statement.
During a 42-minute speech to an overflow crowd of at least 2,500 at the fairgrounds, the president pledged to “finish what we started” with policies that will provide a platform for all Americans to succeed, not just the wealthy and privileged.
Obama said Iowans will have to work even harder than they did to get him elected in 2008.
“This election is going to be closer than the last one,” Obama told the crowd, which interrupted him with chants of “four more years” on several occasions. “The outcome of this election, it’s entirely up to you.”