Obama jobs bill, higher taxes for wealthy run into GOP resistance in Congress

September 13, 2011

After President Obama outlined his jobs agenda and prospective legislation before a joint session of Congress last Thursday, his reliance on higher taxes for the wealthy as a way to pay for the bill has earned criticism from the GOP. As the Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman and David Nakamura reported:

President Obama announced plans Monday to fund his $447 billion jobs bill largely by raising taxes on wealthier families, provoking immediate opposition from congressional Republicans.

The sequence of event suggests that despite the recent pledges of greater bipartisanship, many of the fiscal and economic stumbling blocks that have left Washington gridlocked in recent months remain firmly in place.

At a Rose Garden ceremony to promote the bill before he formally sent it to Congress, the president urged the public to pressure lawmakers to quickly approve the package.

“This is the bill that Congress needs to pass,” Obama said. “No games. No politics. No delays.”

There was little delay in the GOP response, even if it was relatively measured.

“We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit,” said Michael Steel, chief spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

The White House said Congress should pay for the jobs plan by imposing new limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000.

Eliminating those deductions would bring in an additional $400 billion in revenue, aides said. The administration also recommended ending subsidies for oil and gas companies and changing the depreciation rules for corporate airplanes.

Altogether, White House aides said the tax package would raise $467 billion, more than enough to pay for the new jobs bill.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have already begun to spar over the proposed legislation and tax increases. As 2chambers blogger Felicia Somnez explained:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had some sharp criticism Tuesday morning for President Obama’s jobs package – and the No. 2 Democrat in the House, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), in turn had some strong words for McConnell.

The common thread in both of their responses? Each side accused the other of playing politics instead of working in earnest to jump-start the economy.

In a scathing address on the Senate floor, McConnell charged that “what the president’s proposed so far is not serious, and it’s not a jobs plan.”

“The specifics we got yesterday (on the Obama proposal) only reinforce the impression that this was largely a political exercise,” McConnell said. “For one, they undermine the president’s claim that it’s a bipartisan proposal -- because much of what he’s proposing has already been rejected on a bipartisan basis. The half-trillion-dollar tax hike the White House proposed yesterday will not only face a tough road in Congress among Republicans, but from Democrats too.”

The $447 billion plan sent by the White House to Congress on Monday would be paid for through a mix of capping tax deductions for higher earners, closing loopholes that benefit oil and gas companies and eliminating benefits for corporate jet owners – all proposals that the White House and congressional Democrats have backed in previous efforts to boost the economy.

While the tenets of Obama’s jobs proposal have been well received by a majority of Americans, according to new polling, President Obama’s job approval rating as a whole did not improve after the address. As Behind the Numbers’ Scott Clement reported:

President Obama's job approval rating received no immediate bounce following his prime time speech before Congress last Thursday, unsurprisingly, but Americans do say several of his specific job proposals are promising. Obama's approval rating stands at 42 percent among adults interviewed from Friday to Sunday according to Gallup's tracking poll, identical to 42 percent early last week. But the public rates four out of five of his proposals tested in a separate poll as “very” or “somewhat” effective in easing high unemployment.

In a National Journal poll released Tuesday, just 16 percent say Obama’s jobs plan would lower unemployment “a lot,” but another 48 percent say it would help “a little.” Roughly a quarter of adults – 24 percent – say the plan would not help at all.

Majorities of Americans rate Obama’s specific proposals as “very” or “somewhat” effective for creating jobs, including tax cuts for employers who hire new workers or give current workers a raise (75 percent at least somewhat effective), giving money to state and local governments to prevent teacher and police layoffs (70 percent), helping homeowners refinance mortgages (67 percent) and spending on schools and roads (63 percent). Just over four in 10 said cuts in Social Security taxes paid by workers and employers would be effective (42 percent), a proposal that has received mixed reviews in past polling.

The poll also asked about job proposals from Republican presidential candidates. Fully two thirds say a balanced budget amendment would be very or somewhat effective in creating jobs (67 percent), while roughly half rate other proposals as promising, including corporate tax cuts (52 percent), repealing Obama’s health care law (50 percent), extending Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans and requiring government to eliminate a regulation for each new one they propose (47 percent each).

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