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Obama to propose $300 billion to jump-start jobs

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The economy weak and the public seething, President Barack Obama is expected to propose $300 billion in tax cuts and federal spending Thursday night to get Americans working again. Republicans offered Tuesday to compromise with him on jobs - but also assailed his plans in advance of his prime-time speech.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Two of the biggest measures are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and a continuation of unemployment benefits. Those items would total about $170 billion.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could be changed before Obama introduces his plan Thursday night in his address to Congress.

The White House is considering tax incentives for businesses that hire as well as spending for public works projects.

The package is designed to increase consumer demand, speed up infrastructure construction and spur hiring.

In effect, Obama will be hitting cleanup on a shortened holiday week, with Republican White House contender Mitt Romney releasing his jobs proposals on Tuesday and front-running Texas Gov. Rick Perry hoping to join his presidential rivals Wednesday evening on a nationally televised debate stage for the first time.

Lawmakers began returning to the Capitol to tackle legislation on jobs and federal deficits in an unforgiving political season spiced by the 2012 presidential campaign.

Adding to the mix: A bipartisan congressional committee is slated to hold its first public meeting on Thursday as it embarks on a quest for deficit cuts of $1.2 trillion or more over a decade. If there is no agreement, automatic spending cuts will take effect, a prospect that lawmakers in both parties have said they would like to avoid.

According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president's proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could still be subject to change.

The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.

Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment. The president and Congress negotiated that provision into law for 2011 last December.

Though Obama has said he intends to propose long-term deficit reduction measures to cover the up-front costs of his jobs plan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would not lay out a wholesale deficit reduction plan in his speech.

In a letter to Obama on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlined possible areas for compromise on jobs legislation. Separately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last month's unemployment report - it showed a painfully persistent 9.1 percent jobless rate and no net gain of jobs – “should be a wakeup call to every member of Congress."

Whatever the potential for eventual compromise on the issue at the top of the public's agenda, the finger pointing was already under way.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell predicted Obama's Thursday night speech to Congress on jobs legislation would include "more of the same failed approach that's only made things worse over the past few years."

He spoke a few moments after Reid had said that Republicans, rather than working with Democrats to create job-creating legislation, insist on "reckless cuts to hurt our economic recovery."

The Senate returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday after an August recess. The House comes back Wednesday.

Left largely ignored in the latest political remarks was a remarkable run of late-summer polls that show the country souring on Obama's performance - and on Congress' even more.

A Washington Post-ABC survey released Monday found that 60 percent of those polled expressed disapproval of Obama's handling of the economy. Thirty-four percent said his proposals were making the situation worse and 47 percent said they were having no effect - dismal soundings for a president headed into a re-election campaign. Only 19 percent said the country was moving in the right direction.

Not that Republicans, or Congress as a whole, are in good odor with the voters. The Post-ABC News poll found only 28 percent approval for the job the Republicans are doing, and 68 percent disapproval.

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