CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
Sept. 6, 2011 – 10:34 p.m.
Jobs Plans Show Wide Partisan Gap
By Alan K. Ota, CQ Staff
Congressional leaders on Tuesday laid out sharply divergent plans to spur job growth, and the separate approaches made clear how difficult it will be for Republicans and Democrats to reach agreement on an issue of increasing concern to the public.
Senate and House Democratic leaders called for continuing a payroll tax break for workers, continuing benefits for the long-term unemployed and boosting infrastructure spending. Their Republican counterparts proposed curbing federal regulations, overhauling the tax code to reduce corporate rates and generally reducing the size and scope of the federal government.
Upon returning from their summer recess, both sides wasted no time in outlining their respective remedies for the nation’s ailing economy, seeming to shift their focus toward jobs and away from deficit reduction, a topic that consumed Congress all summer.
Fiscal priorities will take center stage Thursday when the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction gathers for its first organizational meeting and President Obama delivers a speech on job creation to a joint session of Congress.
Similar Goal, Different Paths
Just as the two parties have disagreed over how best to contain the budget deficit — Republicans called for changes in entitlement programs that Democrats opposed and Democrats called for revenue increases that Republicans abhorred — the two sides are staking out different ways to boost job creation.
Among the specifics outlined by Democrats were programs benefiting young workers and renewal of aviation and surface transportation programs.
Republicans called on Obama to send Congress trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama for approval, to suggest changes in the way surface transportation construction money is allocated and to propose a new way of distributing unemployment benefits to mirror a program used in Georgia.
While the proposals shared little in common, leaders of both parties urged their adversaries to give ground to allow Congress to pass jobs-related legislation this year.
“It has never been more important that we put our jobs agenda ahead of either party’s political agenda,” Senate Majority Leader
“It is also critical that our differences not preclude us from taking action in areas where there is common agreement,” wrote the GOP leaders. “We should not approach this as an all-or-nothing situation.”
Behind the political positioning over jobs, concern is evident among leaders of both parties that the stalled economy poses political perils and is likely to increase public dismay with Washington.
Jobs Plans Show Wide Partisan Gap
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday found that 82 percent of respondents disapproved of Congress’ performance, tracking other surveys that found lawmakers’ approval ratings falling to historic lows in the wake of the protracted battle over raising the government’s borrowing authority. The same poll ranked Obama’s job approval rating at 44 percent, while 51 percent disapproved of his performance for the first time.
Reid and House Minority Leader
On the issue of business tax cuts and incentives to boost infrastructure improvements, the parties agreed that change is needed but disagreed on the details.
A New Priority
Leaders of both parties made clear that jobs initiatives would be a top priority no matter what the deficit reduction panel recommends.
Reid called on the Senate to complete action on a patent law overhaul (
Reid also called for reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been operating on short-term extensions since 2007. The most recent extension (PL 112-27), which runs out Sept. 16, was enacted only after many federal aviation programs were shut down for about two weeks. And Reid called for the renewal of surface transportation programs (PL 112-5) that expire Sept. 30.
Reid took no formal position on efforts by House Democrats to shoehorn stimulus proposals into the work of the deficit reduction committee, including a plan for an infrastructure bank to finance roads and bridges and a proposal for a community redevelopment corps for young workers.
McConnell and other GOP leaders repeated their view that short-term stimulus measures — such as infrastructure spending included in the 2009 stimulus law (PL 111-5) — have fallen short of their promise to generate jobs.
They seized on the recent employment report as well as signs of Obama’s weakened public approval to make the case for the economic prescriptions of GOP presidential and congressional candidates.
And Republicans were emboldened by Obama’s decision last week to abandon — until a new review in 2013 — an air pollution standard that would reduce ozone levels. McConnell called for additional concessions by Obama and the Democrats, saying Americans are looking for Washington “not so much to do more, but for the first time in a long time to do less.”