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Before Speech, Nods to Civility Amid Political Maneuvers

House Republican leaders geared up for President Barack Obama’s job speech tonight by continuing calls for civility, all the while still criticizing the administration for what they charge are its job-crushing regulations.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that after Obama’s prime-time speech to a joint session, “we’ll be able to sit down in a bipartisan way and find common ground that will help improve our economy.”

The nod to civility comes just days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Obama made a similar plea today in an op-ed he wrote for USA Today: “on a day when others tried to divide us, we can regain the sense of common purpose that stirred in our hearts 10 years ago.”

Boehner wouldn’t say whether extending the payroll tax cut, expected to be a central point of Obama’s new jobs plan, was an area where the two parties could agree. He did stick to the GOP line by going after “the regulatory onslaught that’s coming out of the administration.”

On the Senate side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a more partisan tone

“It’s time the president starts thinking less about how to describe his policies differently and more time thinking about devising new policies,” the Kentucky Republican said on the floor. “And he might start by working with Congress, instead of writing in secret, without any consultation with Republicans, a plan that the White House is calling bipartisan.”

Boehner and McConnell opted not to appoint a Republican to deliver an official response to tonight’s address; a move that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized as disrespectful. Boehner defended the decision Thursday, saving his criticism for regulations.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of regulations that are going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Boehner, who has invited a dozen guests from the private sector to join him in the gallery for tonight’s address. Doing so, Boehner said, “puts a real face on how these regulations impact these businesses specifically.”

House Republicans have unveiled their own jobs plan that will dominate the House floor in the coming months, which includes proposals to roll back various regulations and provide small-business tax credits. Both Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have promoted their party’s proposal, even as the two maintained they are eager to hear Obama’s speech.

“We are going to embark upon an agenda that is squarely focused on job creation and trying to get this economy going again,” Cantor promised.

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