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Obama hosting bipartisan talks on economy

May 16, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • The White House says President Obama will push House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to embrace his congressional to-do list, a short list of relatively small initiatives the president has said will spur economic growth.
The White House says President Obama will push House Speaker John A. Boehner… (Micahel Reynolds / EPA )

After months of trading blame and criticism from afar, President Obama and GOPcongressional leaders will meet Wednesday to discuss the economy — and, presumably, trade blame and criticism in person, more politely.

The bipartisan gathering at the White House, the first since late February, is billed as a discussion of legislative solutions to the sluggish economy. The White House says President Obama will push House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to embrace his congressional to-do list, a short list of relatively small initiatives the president has said will spur growth.

Obama unveiled the list last week during an address in Albany, N.Y. As he did so, he mocked the unpopular Congress, his frequent foil, saying he'd made the list brief and easy, so it wouldn't take much reading. GOP leaders quickly dismissed the list as an election-year gimmick.

But Obama is aiming to show that he is serious about looking for common ground on economic measures. The White House says the president will give particular attention on Wednesday to a proposal that would give a 10% income tax credit to small businesses that hire new employees or increase wages. The measure would also extend tax deductions for business investment, a provision that would put $50 billion in business coffers over two years, according to the White House. 

"These are the kinds of things that, even in an election, should garner bipartisan support," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. "Those are the things that we can do."

But what Congress can do and what Congress will do are two very different things. Expectations for congressional action on economic measures are low. 

Republicans note that they have their own set of economic proposals, measures that would cut taxes more broadly for small businesses, roll back regulations and expand oil and gas development. Boehner and McConnell used the last White House meeting to push for these measures, to no avail.  

In order to pass some compromise, both parties would have to temporarily set aside the campaign narratives they've spent months building: Republicans are uncompromising and extreme, according to Democrats. Democrats are blocking instead of fostering economic growth, Republicans say.

As the White House announced Wednesday's meeting, there was fresh evidence that neither party seemed inclined to ease up. Looking at a looming request to raise the nation's debt ceiling, the speaker said he planned to make demands for spending cuts similar to those that GOP lawmakers made over the summer, when the battle over raising the limit nearly led to a U.S. default.

Boehner said the limit was an opportunity to force fiscal discipline. Democrats swiftly denounced Boehner's remarks as courting economic danger and catering to extreme elements of the party.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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