House Republicans try to steer focus back to jobs

March 16, 2011

As the debate over keeping the federal government funded continues to dominate the agenda on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are redoubling their efforts to make sure that the issue of job creation — which largely fueled their triumph in November — does not get lost in the mix.

One day after they released a report making the case that less federal spending will boost the national economy, House Republican leaders hosted an hour-long forum on job creation Wednesday in the Capitol Visitors Center. Attending were several business owners, including the chief executive of a West Virginia construction company and the president of a bank in Laredo, Tex.

In an interview, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) cast the event as an opportunity for business owners to tell Congress what should be done to improve private-sector hiring — as well as for House Republicans to drive home the message that the ultimate goal of their proposed spending cuts is more jobs.

“That’s what all of this is about right now. While we’re heavily engaged in the discussion about spending and cutting spending, it is all really about trying to create an environment for job creation in the private sector,” Cantor said Wednesday.

He noted that House Republicans are also focused on creating jobs through cutting federal regulations — an area where the House has already taken steps — and simplifying the tax code, which the Ways and Means Committee is examining.

Congress must “stop the regulatory overreach that’s impeding the ability to create jobs,” Cantor said, citing efforts underway to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas regulations, the national health-care law, Federal Communications Commission regulations and more. “Pick your acronym — there are regulations at work, frankly, that really demonstrate a disconnect on the part of bureaucrats versus what small-business people need.”

The jobs forum and economic report — as well as the inclusion of the word “jobs” in a host of their recent speeches and releases — point to a concern among House Republicans that the message they ran on last year may have gotten lost amid the budget battle.

And Democrats are trying to take advantage, after an election cycle during which they got hammered by Republicans on the issue of jobs. One jobs forum, they argue, does not a jobs agenda make.

“The American public has made it very clear: They want leaders who will come together to find solutions that will put America back to work, while ensuring that we can out-innovate, out-educate, and grow our economy,” said Ellis Brachman, communications director for House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson (Conn.). “It’s time for the GOP to stop talking and start working for American families.”

Democrats also point to multiple reports that suggest cuts to federal spending could result in job losses, including one projection by Mark Zandi, an economist whose forecasts are closely watched, that the House Republican spending bill would lead to 700,000 fewer jobs being created by next year.

In addition, a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week showed that more Americans think big cuts in federal spending are likely to result in fewer jobs rather than create jobs. Cantor said Wednesday that he hadn’t seen the specific numbers in that poll.

Meanwhile, the debate over funding the federal government took a new twist Wednesday as two top Senate Republicans announced they will block any future short-term budget bills unless the measures are accompanied by a resolution funding the Defense Department through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The move by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will have no bearing on the three-week funding measure currently before the Senate; that is expected to be approved Thursday. It does, however, reflect a growing opposition to such stopgap funding bills, which many lawmakers have criticized as creating uncertainty and, McConnell and McCain argued Wednesday, endangering national security.

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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