(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )
House GOP leaders outlined areas of possible agreement with President Obama’s jobs plan – and a long-list of nonstarters – in a letter to rank-and-file members.
The Friday memo holds few surprises. But the outline shows the difficulty the White House faces in advancing provisions of the package that are largely supported by Americans but have received a cool reception on Capitol Hill. Even Democrats have expressed reservations about aspects of Obama’s strategy for putting Americans back to work.
"We believe there are areas of common agreement," wrote House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and other leaders to Republican lawmakers. "There are also some aspects of the president’s proposal where it will be harder to find common ground."
But that common ground is a narrow slice of Obama’s $447-billion package.
First of all, the tax increases on upper-income households to pay for the package is a nonstarter for the GOP leaders. But enlarging a payroll tax holiday for workers to about $1,500 a year and creating one for companies that make new hires are areas for further conversation, they wrote.
Reforming the unemployment insurance system to continue benefits to jobless Americans is another area of possible agreement. And free-trade agreements with South Korea and other countries, which both Obama and GOP leaders have wanted to advance, should also be doable.
But the GOP leaders drew a line in the sand over key elements of Obama’s proposal – including several of those that appear most popular with Americans.
For example, sending money to states to keep public school teachers, firefighters and others on the job is largely dismissed by Republicans as a repeat of the 2009 stimulus bill they opposed. A federal initiative for school renovation projects and funds to refurbish distressed and foreclosed homes also falls in that category for the GOP.
Transportation and infrastructure funding, which typically enjoys bipartisan support, is a gray area. GOP leaders expressed an interest in pursuing the president’s goal of achieving job growth by building roads, bridges and highways, but sought to pay for it by cutting back on transportation funds elsewhere. A similar GOP-led proposal to swap transportation funds failed to advance in the Senate earlier this week.
The leadership told its rank-and-file it believes there are "areas worthy of further conversation where agreement -- assuming there are good-faith discussions -- may be possible." GOP leaders also want to pursue various business tax breaks they say will help spur job creation.
The GOP-led House is not expected to bring the package up for a vote. In the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would bring the package up "as soon as we can" – which likely means sometime in October.