Less than two hours after President Obama repeated his call for prompt action on his $447 billion job creation package, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., flatly rejected the President’s plea to bring the measure to the floor and said it would not pass in its entirety.
“This all or nothing approach is unreasonable,” Cantor told reporters on Capitol Hill. Instead, he said the House would move on elements of the jobs package that the Republican leadership support by the end of October. While the menu was short, Cantor listed areas of commonality between the White House and Republican leaders, including three long-delayed free-trade agreements with Columbia, South Korea and Panama and a reduction in withholding tax for businesses.
“Washington has become so dysfunctional that we’ve got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make,” Cantor said. “Both sides have their desire to do big, bold things. The problem is they are just vastly different. If nothing else, we should certainly focus on trying to put some things on the board, stop magnifying the differences and try to focus on the commonality.”
Before a Cabinet meeting President Obama said he was ready to sign the legislation and called for an up or down vote on the package. However, at a press briefing White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the president would sign individual portions of the jobs bill if that was the only way it would pass.
Late Monday afternoon the president submitted the three free trade agreements for congressional approval, a much awaited move that could be lead to a rare bipartisan agreement.
Some Democrats, including Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, have expressed skepticism about the size of president’s proposal and would prefer an a la carte version of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-N.V., supports the bill but is open to tweaking it, aides say. “I’m happy to work with my colleagues on both sides on the aisle to improve this bill, but I hope the obstructionism Republicans employed in the last nine months won’t continue,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday.
Earlier in the day, House Republican leaders issued a letter to the president outlining their jobs creation package and asked him to consider two regulatory measures—the EPA Regulatory Relief Act and the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act—that the House will vote on this week. They said there are a few elements in the president’s proposal that represent areas of common ground but at the heart of it, they wouldn’t support it.
“There are excessive government regulations that unnecessarily increase costs for consumers and small businesses, and make it harder for our economy to create jobs,” they wrote. “It is our hope that in the spirit of putting country before party, you will call on the Senate to follow the House in passing these measures, and commit to signing them into law, should they reach your desk.”
Republican leaders claim the EPA Regulatory Relief measure would protect more than 200,000 jobs and the cement measure would save up to 20 percent of the nation’s cement manufacturing plants in the next two years.
President Obama has been crisscrossing the country touting his jobs package since he introduced it three weeks ago. His plan, which included $253 billion in tax cuts and $194 billion in new spending, would reduce payroll taxes on employers and workers as well as extend benefits to the long term unemployed.