WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Republicans Tuesday to work with him and Democratic lawmakers on ways to create jobs, saying that it's critical to agree on something even if neither side gets all it wants.
Republicans countered that they have yet to see the Democrats' complete jobs proposal or its price tag. They did say, however, that they like the president's proposals on energy and trade, ideas that Obama later said he'd gotten from them in the first place.
"It went very well," Obama said after the White House meeting with congressional leaders from both parties, joking that the Democratic and Republican leaders from the Senate were out on the White House lawn making snow angels afterward.
"We all understand that there are legitimate and genuine differences between the parties. But despite the political posturing that often paralyzes this town, there are many issues upon which we can and should agree," Obama said.
With a new jobs proposal about to be introduced in the Senate, Obama called the meeting as he tries to forge a bipartisan consensus in the wake of his party's loss of its filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. In particular, Obama was looking for support for proposals to spur job creation, including his call for tax cuts and credits for small businesses.
"When one in 10 of our fellow citizens can't work, we should be able to come together and help business create more jobs," he said.
"We ought to be able to agree on providing small businesses with additional tax credits and much-needed lines of credits," he said. "And we ought to agree on investments in crumbling roads and bridges, and we should agree on tax breaks for making homes more energy efficient, all of which will put more Americans to work."
Senate Democratic leaders hope to introduce a jobs package this week. It's expected to include:
- A proposal from Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to suspend the employer's share of Social Security payroll taxes for every unemployed worker hired this year.
- Tax credits for small business that hire new workers.
- Extending through the end of this year tax breaks that expired at the end of 2009, notably a research and development tax credit.
- Extending soon-to-expire bonding authority that makes it easier for state and local governments to finance public works projects.
- $20 billion for infrastructure projects.
Obama also pushed anew for measures to ease bank lending to small business.
He conceded that he might not get all he wants, but he said that some sort of compromise plan is important to help create jobs and a new political environment that could set a path to other agreements.
"It maybe that that first package builds some trust and confidence that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill can work together, and then we move on to the next aspect of the package, and so forth," he said.
"There are some areas of potential agreement," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., his party's leader in the Senate.
McConnell noted the president's support for nuclear energy, clean coal technology, oil and gas exploration and more free trade agreements.
"Obviously, there will be areas of disagreement," McConnell added. "But, emphasizing the things that we might be able to work on together, I would mention those four areas . . . which we know create jobs here in the United States."
"Of course he likes that. That's part of the Republican agenda for energy, which I accept," Obama said afterward.
He said that was an example of possible compromise where both sides get some of what they want — with Democrats favoring long-term investments in alternative energy sources such as wind power, and Republicans seeking more use of traditional energy sources now.
"I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway, but there's got to be some give from their side as well," Obama said, adding that he hopes that happens at a bipartisan meeting on health care on Feb. 25.
As an example, he signaled again that he might accept some limits on malpractice awards if that were proven to lower costs, as Republicans say it would.
Not all issues, however, lend themselves to using both sides' wish lists into one larger proposal.
Obama, for example, pressed Republicans to support his proposal for a bipartisan commission that would recommend spending cuts or tax increases to cut the federal budget deficit. Republicans countered Tuesday by urging Obama to push for immediate votes in Congress to cut spending now.
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