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Lawmakers regarded President Barack Obama’s latest attempt to engage them on an economic proposal as largely irrelevant Tuesday, with neither Democrats nor Republicans viewing it as an actual step forward toward breaking their ongoing budget impasse.
Obama delivered an address in Chattanooga, Tenn., outlining a broad framework “for the middle class” that, among other provisions, would include corporate tax changes, infrastructure projects and an increase in the minimum wage. The package, which the White House touted as a “grand bargain,” included a few items the GOP supports in isolation — closing tax loopholes to lower tax rates, for example. The offer was intended to be an olive branch to the GOP, because it didn’t include any tax increases.
But Republicans either shrugged off or slammed the White House proposal, saying it could undercut talks on either a larger budget framework or a comprehensive tax rewrite.
And they don’t think Obama is serious about working with them, anyway.
“I don’t think they’ve been acting in good faith. I really don’t, in the sense of really trying to bring both sides together,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said Tuesday.
“I think they’re hoping that there will be some maverick Republicans who will ignore the basic Republican doctrines and do this with them with all the Democrats,” the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee continued. “It’s clear they want a very liberal approach toward everything, especially tax reform.”
Hatch said he hoped the administration would give Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., “some breathing room” on the tax code. Baucus has been traveling the country with House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to make the case for a tax policy overhaul, but any chances for a comprehensive rewrite seem unlikely this Congress.
And Obama’s push to make changes to corporate taxes only is certainly a far cry from the blank-slate approach Baucus and Camp have been trying to take toward the tax code.
Republican reaction to Obama’s speech — much of it coming before the remarks were even delivered — was unified at a leadership level.
Some recent allies of Obama seemed split on what the White House was attempting by moving forward with its own plan, considering Obama has been wooing a select few Senate Republicans over the past few months with White House meetings and casual dinners.
Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, for example, have partnered with Democrats recently on issues like immigration and nominations. But neither one seemed particularly jazzed about the tax plan.