Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in a lengthy memo to House Republicans laid out areas of potential compromise with President Obama’s jobs bill and even thanked the White House at one point for beginning to back away from an “all or nothing approach” to passing it.
“For the sake of 14 million Americans who are currently unemployed and the more than 4 million who have been unemployed for more than a year, we are pleased that the White House has begun to back away from that extreme,” Boehner wrote in the letter sent late Friday afternoon.
But so far there doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that the White House has any intention of giving up on the idea of Congress passing it wholesale.
Boehner could be extrapolating and interpreting comments from White House spokesman Jay Carney Thursday.
“We think it could be acted on in its entirety, and that’s certainly what we would like to see happen,” Carney explained. “As I’ve said — and let me make clear, because Congress gets to legislate, if they sent us one part of that — funding for teachers, for example — the President obviously would not veto that. He would sign it, and then he would say, okay, send me the rest. And that would be true if it came in two pieces or four pieces, or one…that’s our approach.”
White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage told TPM Friday evening that the bill includes the kinds of proposals that Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past, and Republicans need to pass the “whole bill” right away in order to create between 1.5 and 2 million jobs and put teachers, construction workers, police officers and firefighters back to work.
“There’s nothing but politics standing in the way of Congress passing this whole bill right away so we can get the American people back to work,” she said “The question for the Republicans is why do they think doing nothing to help the economy now is an acceptable answer?”
In the memo, Boehner ticked off a laundry list of “potential areas for common agreement” but said Republicans would refuse to accept any tax increases as a way to pay for the package and also noted that it would be hard to find common ground on more straight stimulus-oriented funding such as school construction.
The areas for potential compromise include: extending the 100 percent bonus depreciation for businesses, addressing the pending 3 percent witholding requirement for government contractors, small business capital formation, tax incentives for hiring veterans, unemployment insurance system reforms, free trade agreements, some infrastructure funding, and payroll tax relief.
On unemployment insurance, Boehner was nuanced in his willingness to compromise.
“While the President links these reforms to a blanket extension of extended (up to 99 weeks) UI benefits and new federal spending, there is no reason we cannot move forward on these areas of agreement,” he said.
When it comes to infrastructure spending, Boehner rejected Obama’s proposed $50 billion and the creation of a new $10 billion infrastructure bank. Instead, he said Congress should reform the system, reduce redundancies in it and streamline payments to contractors.
“There are more than 100 federal surface transportation programs, many of which are duplicative or do not serve a federal purpose,” he said. “…of the highway funds provided over two and half years ago under the President’s stimulus bill, over 18 percent is still unexpended.”
But Boehner said there would be no room for bargaining on other aspects of the plan like payments to state and local governments for school construction, to prevent teacher layoffs or to rehabilitate and refurbish homes.
When it comes to the tax increases on the wealthy and businesses that Obama has said would pay for the jobs bill, Boehner was blunt: “As the President himself has said, ‘…you don’t raise taxes in a recession.’ With respect to the tax increases the President has proposed to pay for this package, many in his party seem to agree.”
He then quoted four Democrats pouring cold water on the tax increases, including Sens. Jim Webb (VA), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC).
You can read the full memo here.
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