Image: Barack Obama
Saul Loeb  /  AFP - Getty Images file
President Obama carries a computer tablet as he walks from the Oval Office to a waiting motorcade on the South Lawn of the White House, on August 13, 2011.
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updated 9/1/2011 12:20:16 PM ET 2011-09-01T16:20:16

The White House is making it easier for people to press the federal government to act.

It is bringing that constitutional right to petition one's government into the digital age with a webpage, "We the People," where people can create and sign petitions seeking the government's action on a range of issues.

Video: Pfeiffer: President’s plan will tackle jobs (on this page)

An official response is guaranteed for any petition that draws enough signatures — 5,000 names within 30 days — after it is reviewed by staff and the appropriate policy experts within the Obama administration.

The White House announced the new page, http://www.whitehouse.gov/wethepeople, on Thursday.

"When I ran for this office, I pledged to make government more open and accountable to its citizens," President Barack Obama said in the announcement. He said the new feature will give Americans "a direct line" to the White House on issues that most concern them.

First Read: Washington returns to gridlock

The online petition program comes as Obama has been urging the public to press their representatives in Congress to act on his ideas for creating jobs and balancing the federal budget.

To emphasize word-of-mouth organizing, a petition's Web address initially will only be known by the person who created it. The address is not supposed to show up anywhere else on the White House website until 150 signatures have been collected.

The first online petitions can be created later this month.

The White House already accepts petitions through its correspondence office and that is not expected to change, officials said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Pfeiffer: President’s plan will tackle jobs

  1. Closed captioning of: Pfeiffer: President’s plan will tackle jobs

    >>> well, if timing is everything, the latest fallout in washington may not bode well for the debay over jobs. if the two sides can't even agree on when to talk about the unemployment crisis, how can they agree on a plan to solve it? dan pfeiffer is the white house communications director . he joins me now from the white house briefinging room. dan , let me start with this question.

    >> sure.

    >> why did -- why did you consul -- wait until yesterday morning to consult with the speaker's office on a date and time? and then why did you send out the tweet you sent out about an hour and a half later before you got the official letter inviting you to address the joint session of congress ?

    >> well, we had a conversation yesterday morning with the speaker's office at a high level here in the white house and proposed the date of wednesday and the time. and they didn't raise an objection. the they raised an objection, we wouldn't have gone forward with that date. if there had been some concerns they needed more time to work through the logistics and said that to us, we would have held off. this is all sort of a silly thing. if they said we can't do wednesday, we'll do thursday, we would have gone after thursday. so wednesday would have been preferable because it was the first day congress was back, but thursday is fine, as well.

    >> so did speaker boehner tell -- i believe we reported that it was chief of staff bill bailey -- did he specifically tell bill bailey yes, specifically, september 7th , i'll make it work?

    >> they raise nod objections to the date or time.

    >> what does that mean? what does that mean, meaning it was boehner saying, all right, bill, and that's about it? or was there some specifics here?

    >> well, i'm certainly not going to get in the habit of reading out conversations between the white house chief of staff and the speak of the house, but there was no -- we had no reason to believe after that confers that there was any reason that wednesday could not work for logistical or other reasons for the speaker.

    >> all right. let's talk about just quickly, do you guys -- have you decided on what time you'll speak? i know you've said you're not sure yet and are trying to work through that. what time?

    >> we're working through that with the congressional leadership and with the networks including yours. everyone in america should be rest assured that we will be done before kickoff in the packers/saints game on thursday night. no worries there.

    >> all right. i want to talk about substance here, which is what's going to be in the plan and what's not going to be in the plan. i've been told that, look, this is going to be focused on job creation . does that mean we will not have -- hear the president propose something, for instance, to try to deal with what's going on in the housing crisis?

    >> well, what you'll hear from the president is a speech about how we grow the economy and create jobs. he will talk specifically and unveil that night a specific package of measures to create jobs and grow the economy. there are other things we're going to need do beyond specific things and we'll have more detail for wednesday nigh, tax cuts for individuals and businesses, infrastructure ideas, help for the long-term unemployed. there are things beyond that we have to do to get out of the economic mess we're in, no question, and housing is at the top of that list. the president has been doing a lot on housing. we're going to have more to say about that. some in the speech obviously but also down the line as well. we'll be there on wednesday night -- thursday night, excuse me, freudian slip , to talk about will be a very specific set of initiatives focused on job creation as soon as possible.

    >> now, you guys have said jay carney in the briefing, you have said this, others have, that this is going to be proposals that have traditionally gotten bipartisan support in the past. does that mean you are grabbing ideas, you're going to be putting republican names to it? can you give a little more -- show a little more leg, if you will, on exactly what you mean by that?

    >> what we mean is the things i mentioned here, and we'll have, as i said, more details in the speech, infrastructure proposals, tax cuts , are things ha in previous areas with different iterations by the republican party , have been supported by independent parties, economic experts, people of all stripes, those are the sorts of things the president will talk about in the speech. i suspect there will be things he'll have in the speech that will have been previously supported by members in the audience that night. whether they're named or not, you'll have to wait till the speech to see. but there's no reason i think these proposals should not be done. the only thing that will keep them from being done is politics. and if congress and the house republican leadership in specific is going to let politics in the way of creating jobs and growing the economy, that's something they'll have to explain to the american people .

    >> i want to ask you about the fact that i've also been told that everything here will be paid for as far as everything you're going to be proposing. does that mean you're looking at taking sort of speeding up getting money out so maybe money that's been budgeted over ten years on infrastructure you want to spend in the next two? what do you mean by paid for if you're not going to be talking about tax increases?

    >> sure. we have been this engaged for too long in this town on-in a false debate. either you're deal with your deficits or creating jobs and the economy, not either/or. the president will talk about specific measures to create jobs and grow the economy and the fact that we can do significant deficit reduction beyond what the quote, unquote, super committee has been tasked with to pay for these measures. we can do that in a very easy way and a balanced approach.

    >> is this one of these plans you'll but up on your website? i notice you guys are launching a new thing on your website, we, the people, and in here, a david plouffe e-mail, video message this morning. it said if enough ideas get enough petition signatures, it means you will take up the idea. can you explain this a little bit? somebody comes up and says, hey, i want to get rid of the epa, and that gets enough signatures and enough requests, you guys will seriously consider figuring out how to get rid of the epa?

    >> well, i think that what we, the people, is designed to do is have greater engagement with the american people , to have them -- if there are new ideas that come through that process that are helpful in terms of creating jobs or growing the economy or helping middle-class families, they'll get a fair hearing inside the white house . if there are ideas that are ones that we fundamentally disagree with or are bad ideas and enough people come forward, we'll respond to why we disagree with that idea and look for a way to work together on other ideas.

    >> i want to close with politics, new quinnipiac poll out this morning, has to have you pulling your hair out a little bit. who can better handle the economy, your posz, president obama , or mitt romney . same question with your boss or rick perry . mitt romney outpolls your boss. why do you think that is?

    >> well, i think my guess is that a significant portion of the people polled, the american people , don't know what mitt romney 's economic plan is yet. i'm confident they will know. he supports cut, cap, and balance which would essentially end medicare, end social security , devastate --

    >> but you know the president's plan and they say -- what you're saying is they're taking none of the above over the president?

    >> no. what i think is always true before you get into a national contest of ideas in elections is the incumbent is judged not against his or her opponent but against the ideal. we're obviously in a tough economic situation right now. we've been in it for a long time. we've made some progress. we have a lot more to do. eventually there will be a republican, whether it's mitt romney or governor perry or congresswoman bachmann or something else sitting across the stage from the president and we'll debate, who has a better vision on how to move the economy forward. what we know is every idea being advanced by every republican candidate has been tried before and failed. we'll have a debate. that debate is a long time from now. we have a speech next week that is about how we can create jobs and grow the economy now.

    >> do you believe that you guys could have handled this request to speaker boehner better?

    >> well, look, i mean, the whole thing is silly. it's fitting within the last day of august sort of washington, d.c., august, obsession. we'll always look at this and figure out how to do things better. but right now we're focused on the speech next week and the president's plan to grow the economy and create jobs.

    >> dan pfeiffer, white house communications director , thanks very much for cominging on.

    >> thank you, chuck.

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