Senate GOP Cool to Obama’s Latest Jobs Plan

Posted September 7, 2010 at 2:10pm

Updated: 4 p.m.

Thanks, but no thanks. That is how Senate Republicans are likely to respond to President Barack Obama’s $50 billion infrastructure proposal when they return to work next week following the August recess.

Individual Republican Senators have already criticized Obama’s latest job-creation plan, which the president introduced Monday during a Labor Day rally in Milwaukee. And although the GOP Conference is still set to discuss the issue at the weekly caucus lunch Sept. 14, Republican sources said the verdict is in.

“Stimulus 2 is just more government spending and more government borrowing designed to save a handful of jobs — those of Democrats in Washington,” a senior Republican Senate aide said Tuesday. “If the administration and Democrats were serious about helping Americans, they would stop their upcoming tax hikes so small businesses know they can start hiring.”

On Tuesday, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Democratic leaders were taking a look at how to move forward on Obama’s proposal, which also calls for creating an infrastructure bank to facilitate lending for projects. However, Manley cautioned that very little was likely to move through the Senate absent Republican support, which is likely to be in short supply.

“We are continuing to work with the administration and others on how to proceed,” Manley said. “But if we are going to get anything done, Republican cooperation, which has been all but nonexistent recently, will be necessary.”

Obama unveiled the $50 billion plan, which seeks to create jobs through rebuilding the nation’s highways, railways and airport runways, at a campaign-style rally in Wisconsin.

The GOP pounced immediately, deriding Obama’s proposal as a “second stimulus,” in reference to the $787 billion stimulus bill the president enacted soon after taking office in 2009. Republicans argue that the measure failed to hold unemployment to 8 percent, as the White House promised, while significantly increasing the federal deficit.

Republicans say this new plan simply offers more of the same. Of Republican Senators, only Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, voted for the stimulus bill.

Few observers expect any GOP Senators to vote for another stimulus bill in the current political atmosphere, if it manages to get a floor vote before Congress adjourns in early October.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs predicted some GOP support for the package since it includes tax-cut proposals for businesses — something Republicans have supported over the years.

“If you go back and look … these [ideas] seem to have some support,” Gibbs said during a Tuesday briefing.

Gibbs rejected one of the Republicans’ main proposals to address unemployment and the flagging economy: extending the tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003 for all income brackets before the end of the year.

Obama’s former budget director, Peter Orszag, lent support to that idea, at least in part, in a column in Tuesday’s New York Times — a stance that puts him at odds with the president for whom he worked until last month.

Obama has called for the tax cuts to expire only for those individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and for married couples earning more than $250,000.

“The president’s viewpoint is that we cannot afford to extend the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year,” Gibbs said.

Reid has pledged to move on Obama’s plan to partially extend the tax cuts, which were originally signed into law by President George W. Bush.

“We will put even more money back into workers’ pockets by extending middle-class tax cuts,” Reid said. “So far, nearly every Senate Republican has blocked these common-sense solutions, instead betting against American workers and against our economic recovery.”

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.