Updated: 7:40 p.m.
You could call it the American Jobs Act, Version 2.0. But President Barack Obama’s latest effort to shrink his jobs agenda into bite-size chunks for Congress might not be any more successful than his first bid.
Obama’s latest set of proposals is largely a recycled version of items he has offered before, including a home refinancing initiative, tax cuts for businesses that hire new workers or buy equipment, tax breaks for renewable energy and a shift in tax breaks from companies that ship jobs overseas to ones that bring them back home.
Obama is also proposing a new Veterans Jobs Corps to help returning soldiers become police officers, firefighters and other community-focused jobs.
As he announced the initiative in Albany, N.Y., Obama said he can only do so much without Congress.
“The truth is, the only way we can accelerate job creation on a scale that is needed is with bold action by Congress. Democrats and Republicans have to come together, and they’ve shown that they can do it,” he said, citing passage of tax cuts for workers, trade pacts and patent reform.
But Obama complained that Congress blocked the bulk of the American Jobs Act last year, including funding for teachers and firefighters, targeted tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
“The Republicans got together and they said, ‘no,’” Obama said.
The president acknowledged that his new proposal wouldn’t have as big an effect as last year’s proposal would have had, but he said he hopes the GOP will consider the smaller-scale plan.
“It’s about the size of a Post-it note, so every Member of Congress should have time to read it,” he quipped, later adding, “I’m not trying to overload Congress here.”
But Senate Republicans ripped the president at their weekly press conference, saying his “to-do” list is three and a half years too late. “We have a ‘to stop’ list for him,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said.
“Stop the job-killing regulations that are strangling small businesses in this country ... stop proposing tax increases on the job creators that are out there, stop blocking the Keystone pipeline ... and stop this class warfare,” Thune said.
Before Obama’s speech, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans welcome the president’s call for help for small businesses.
“We have been saying for some time now, ‘Please, Mr. President, let’s set aside the differences and find where we can work together to help small-business growth,’” Cantor said.
But Cantor said there was a difference in Obama’s approach with the House, which passed a 20 percent tax cut. “He wants to direct small businesses and how they commit their capital — we believe that we ought to let the investors decide on how best to allocate their capital,” he said.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), was far more harsh, writing a blog post calling the plan “an evolution in gimmickry.”
“The small, sticky ‘to-do list’ is the perfect symbol for a shrunken presidency, more focused on campaigning than governing,” Buck wrote while blasting Senate Democrats for not acting on a host of bills passed by the House.
Senate Democrats plan to bring the president’s small-business tax cut to the Senate floor soon and have insisted that those tax cuts be tied to growth and hiring. Democrats hadn’t quite settled on what pieces would move when or in how many separate bills, a senior aide said.
Obama also took time to say that Congress needs to find a way to prevent student loan rates from doubling July 1 and to pass a transportation reauthorization bill.
But like much of the rest of the president’s agenda, the student loan bill is in limbo after Senate Republicans filibustered the Democratic leadership’s version in a vote today.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused Republicans of playing “rope-a-dope” on both bills. “They are doing everything they can to stop progress of legislation that will help this country,” he said.