Looking for what he called “rapid action” on the economy, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio joined Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware in tearing apart the various Republican and Democratic and White House jobs proposals in search of some rare common ground.
The two introduced their admittedly modest legislation, known as the “Agree Act,” on Tuesday. It won’t break any new ground, both said. What it might do is inspire confidence in the economy as well as reassure business owners and investors that Washington isn’t completely gridlocked, Rubio said.
“If you’re a job creator out there, and you’re looking at this, you look at this and say, “All right, that’s a glimmer of hope,’” he said.
The bill extends some about-to-expire tax credits that the two say will give businesses certainty about buying equipment and expanding next year. It also lowers some of the reporting requirements for small companies about to go public, and expands visa opportunities for skilled foreign workers. It has a research and development tax credit that encourages companies that invent something in the U.S. to also manufacture it here, and offers a tax break to veterans who invest in franchises.
There’s lots of other areas they could have tackled, including more extensive immigration reform and tax policy, Coons said, but they didn’t think they’d get bipartisan support for them. Both men supported the jobs bills pushed by their respective party leaders, and continue to do so. But there was enough common ground in all of the existing job plans to take some action, Rubio said, given the constraints of divided government.
“The concept here was if there are a handful of things that everybody agrees on, let’s do them,” Rubio said. “Why not do those now, so No. 1, they get done, and No. 2, so that people don’t look to Washington and say every time we hear about you guys it isn’t about gridlock and the place not functioning.”
Their plan drew praise from Steve Case, the founder of America Online, who went on to invest in companies like Living Social and Zipcars. Case, who sits on the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, attended their press conference.
“The place to focus, and both of these senators understand that, is on unleashing the next wave of American entrepreneurship by making sure our policy platform is in place that enables these companies to start and grow,” Case said.
Rubio and Coons couldn’t predict the number of jobs potentially created by their plan. It’s designed largely to assist the people who do the hiring, Rubio said. But he said that if it doesn’t come to a vote, he sees it as a sign that the White House isn’t serious about jobs creation, and is using the claim of congressional inaction as “a political strategy to run against a do-nothing Congress,” he said.
“But let’s not get to that point,” Rubio said. “Let’s be optimistic.”
Rubio, who is in high demand on cable television in part because he hasn’t done many national interviews since his election last year, traded on that good will to heavily promote the bill. From 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday he was scheduled to appear on seven separate interviews on CNN, CNBC, FOX News and MSNBC. It’s part of a media blitz that started Tuesday morning with a 45-minute interview by Politico’s Mike Allen and webcast from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.