About 100 protesters lined the sidewalk in front of the Chase Tower in downtown Austin today to urge U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act. The Texas AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org and the Service Employees International Union co-sponsored the protest and scheduled it to coincide with a fundraising reception Boehner planned to attend at the Headliners Club, 21 floors above the protest.
“Chair Level” tickets to the event cost $30,800. Several Republican congressmen from Texas, including Reps. Michael McCaul, of Austin; John Carter, of Round Rock; Lamar Smith, of San Antonio; Francisco "Quico" Canseco, of San Antonio; and Blake Farenthold, of Corpus Christi, attended the reception. McCaul, Carter and Smith co-chaired the event.
The protesters saw the reception as an opportunity to lodge their grievances with Congress' recent performance and to tell Boehner and other federal legislators their view of the jobs act. “Pass it now,” said Cindy Flint, a local Democratic activist.
The protest began around 4:30 p.m, with Boehner scheduled to arrive around 5 p.m. When three black Chevy Tahoes pulled up to where the protesters were standing, the crowd reacted loudly, suspecting Boehner occupied one of the cars.
“We don’t have $30,000 for a ticket, so we’re having a little picket,” said Shannon Perez, the Texas political coordinator for the SEIU.
Although most of the protesters were from Austin, others came from San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and other Texas cities.
Viveke Lee, a retired psychotherapist from San Antonio, said she wanted “to let Speaker Boehner and Congress know that we are unhappy with their failure to accomplish anything, sitting like a bunch of petulant little children not doing the job they were sent to do.”
Earlier in the day, Smith issued a preemptive comment about the planned protest, saying, “Congressional Democrats’ record on job creation is indefensible. It consists of high unemployment, rising gas prices, record-breaking deficit spending, more taxes and a downgraded America. Instead of trying to distract us from their record, Democrats should work with us to enact policies that will create more jobs for Americans.”
Canseco’s office also released a comment prior to the protest: “People have a right to be upset about the record unemployment plaguing our nation, and I share their concerns. As a former small business owner, I can tell you that the President’s plan on jobs is dead wrong.”