Responding to President Obama’s “Pass this bill!” jobs offensive, Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Thursday that the House will consider the president’s $447 billion jobs package, and signaled a possibility of agreement on new infrastructure spending.
But Republicans and the Obama White House are committed to sharply different visions on how to boost jobs in the current downturn.
The president’s plan recycles elements of his 2009 stimulus bill, including aid to states and the unemployed and new infrastructure spending. But Mr. Boehner, in his most detailed response to the president’s jobs plan to date, focused Thursday on easing the burden of government regulation on businesses and opposing tax hikes.
“The president’s proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America,” he said at an address before the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
Boehner, who faces strong conservative opposition in his own ranks to new government spending, blamed government regulation – “micromanaging, meddling, and manipulating” – for creating a toxic environment for job creation.
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He called on the Obama administration to disclose cost estimates for 219 pending new rules – such as controls on emissions of greenhouse gases – expected to each cost the economy at least $100 million. Seven of these new rules will have an economic impact of $1 billion or more, he said.
“Job creators in American are essentially on strike,” he said. The need is to “liberate our economy from the shackles of Washington.” Boehner also ruled out tax increases. “It’s a very simple equation,” he said. “Tax increases destroy jobs.”
But Boehner also laid out areas for bipartisan agreement, including cutting corporate tax breaks, lowering tax rates, and new infrastructure spending. Next week, Mr. Obama is scheduled to stump for his jobs bill in Boehner’s hometown of Cincinnati, including a visit to the interstate Brent Spence Bridge, now classified as “functionally obsolete.”
The White House jobs plan calls for $140 billion in stimulus spending, including $50 billion for transportation, $30 billion to modernize public schools, $35 billion to retain or rehire teachers and first responders, $15 billion to rehabilitate vacant property, and $10 billion for an infrastructure bank to help fund public works projects.
“I’m not opposed to responsible spending to repair and improve infrastructure,” Boehner said in Thursday’s address. “But if we want to do it in a way that truly supports long-term economic growth and job creation, let’s link the next highway bill to an expansion of American-made energy production.”
That means curbing government regulation of oil and gas production, including offshore exploration and drilling – ground zero for the environmental protection movement for decades. Boehner says removing “unnecessary government barriers” will create millions of new jobs and create demand for infrastructure to bring that energy to the market.
Responding to Boehner’s speech, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says she is “interested in any way we can make sure that the highway trust fund is fully funded at current levels.”
In a bid to reassure businesses, Boehner also proposed that both parties pledge to not allow a default on the national debt or shutdown of the federal government, which could come as early as Oct. 1 when a new, as yet unfunded, fiscal year begins.
Even these tentative overtures to the White House on new infrastructure spending are unsettling to many House GOP conservatives, who are seeking assurances that spending not exceed the limits agreed to in the House-passed budget resolution for FY 2012.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona and more than 50 House Republicans called on House GOP leaders Thursday to hold the line on new spending, including spending to boost jobs, to $1.019 trillion. That’s $28 billion below the levels authorized by the debt ceiling budget control act that Congress passed last month.
“What kind of a message does it send to taxpayers when the House actually increases spending as a result of the debt deal?” said Congressman Flake in a statement.