President Obama is in the process of rolling out a job creation package comprised overwhelmingly of the sorts of tax cuts Republicans normally love, paired with a modest plan to create a government-run infrastructure investment bank to help fund transportation projects across the country. But judging from the GOP response, you’d think the specifics of the proposal were reversed: big on spending, small on tax cuts. In other words, so comfortable have Republicans become with opposing Democratic proposals, that they’re gearing up for a fight against the policies their most powerful supporters love.
“As the American people, facing near double-digit unemployment, mark Labor Day by asking, where are the jobs, the White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed ‘stimulus’ spending,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a Monday statement. He was speaking in that instance about the infrastructure bank, but his statement on Tuesday about the tax cuts wasn’t much more encouraging.
“‘The White House is missing the big picture,” Boehner added. “These aren’t necessarily bad proposals, but they don’t address the two big problems that are hurting our economy - excessive government spending, and the uncertainty that Washington Democrats’ policies, especially their massive tax hike, are creating for small businesses.”
Mitch McConnell echoed Boehner while other Republicans quickly moved to put Democrats on the spot about the new Obama “stimulus” plan.
But traditionally Republican-friendly groups disagree.
Less than two months ago, the National Association of Manufacturers — no friend of the Democrats — had a different take on what is now a major flank of Obama’s new proposal — tax write-offs for businesses looking to build their capacity.
“At a time when manufacturers face much uncertainty, this incentive will help them make needed investments and encourage job creation,” said NAM Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Dorothy Coleman in a July 14 statement. “We appreciate the efforts of the House Small Business Committee to highlight the importance of bonus depreciation, particularly for the small manufacturing companies that are vital to our economic recovery.”
Early last year, when the Chamber of Commerce endorsed the stimulus bill, its top lobbyist Bruce Josten cited its bonus depreciation provision, in a letter to members of Congress, as key to the organization’s support.
The Chamber has likewise supported the concept of a national infrastructure bank. Last year, the group endorsed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), that is very similar to Obama’s proposal.
Earlier this year, a broad coalition, including the Associated General Contractors of America, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) teamed up to press Congress to create a version of Obama’s infrastructure bank proposal.
Today, Republicans couldn’t care less about it, particularly if it’s paired with anything — like infrastructure investments — that they can characterize as new ‘stimulus.’
To the extent that Democrats can capitalize politically on Obama’s plan it will be by driving a wedge between Republicans and their K St. backers over the tax cuts, and by giving individual Congressional Democrats an opportunity to point to crumbling roads in their district and say the GOP doesn’t want to fix them. Thus far neither has happened.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.