GOP Says It’s Willing to Look at Obama’s Jobs Plan
House and Senate Republicans left the door open Sunday to supporting a handful of President Barack Obama’s latest jobs proposals but said Democrats’ first order of business should be to shelve the health care reform effort.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,— said Republicans would be open to supporting Obama’s latest jobs proposals, saying: “Look, as long as it creates jobs, we’re willing to take a look at it.—But McConnell, who said he’s unwilling to lend his support to a package sight unseen, said GOP votes are far from assured. He said Republicans will not come aboard if it follows what he charged as the Democratic approach of “spend, borrow and tax.— As for the GOP ideas, McConnell insisted that his party has them. To start, he suggested Democrats put their current health care reform bills “on the shelf— and make sure that the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts don’t expire.Senate Republican Vice Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.), in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,— also said health care reform should be set aside, asserting that bill and others pushed by Democrats “are job killers.— McConnell also attempted to defend his decision not to vote last week in favor of the Senate’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission, despite having backed the idea last year. Just 53 Senators supported the proposal, sponsored by Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), short of the 60 votes necessary.McConnell, one of several GOP Senators who previously backed the measure, said that while he still thinks it’s a good idea to have one, “a better way to go— is a spending reduction commission. He said he feared the deficit commission “would have made it possible to raise taxes.—Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) blamed Democrats for the failure of the Conrad-Gregg proposal. “The president gave it a half-hearted endorsement over the weekend and didn’t mention it by name,— Alexander said of Obama’s support, which came just days before Senators voted on the proposal. But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) blamed Senate Republicans and said they voted against the proposal “for purely political reasons,— and he hailed his Democratic colleagues in the upper chamber for approving an amendment to enact pay-as-you-go budgeting rules.“I think most families understand the concept: If you have a budget, you have to find offsets to pay for it,— Van Hollen said, appearing on Fox. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,— suggested that the next round of job creation legislation would cost about $100 billion and include tax credits for small-business hiring, spending for infrastructure development and incentives to encourage small bank lending. Thune maintained that any jobs package should not be paid for using funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was designed to rescue failing financial institutions and pay down the deficit. Using those funds, Thune cautioned, would be fiscally irresponsible and politically reckless. “If you’re listening to the people in Virginia and New Jersey and Massachusetts, the angst is real,— Thune said. “People are concerned with the taxing and the spending and the borrowing, and that’s been reflected in the tea party’ movement.— Echoing the message from Obama to House Republicans at their retreat on Friday in Baltimore, Gibbs said on CNN, “We hope Republicans meet the president halfway.—Gibbs couldn’t specify how many jobs the latest initiative might create but said the economic turnaround will take time. “We’ve got a tremendous hole,— Gibbs said. “We didn’t get here over night. We were losing jobs for two years. We’ve got a tremendous hole we have to fill in. This isn’t going to do it all, but an important first step in the recovery.