WASHINGTON - House Republicans unexpectedly pledged an immediate review of President Obama’s jobs plan yesterday as he launched a public campaign for urgent passage of his day-old $447 billion program of tax cuts and new spending. “The time for gridlock and games is over,’’ the president declared.
“Nothing radical in this bill,’’ Obama told a large crowd at the University of Richmond on the afternoon after his speech to Congress. “Everything in it will put more people back to work and more money back in the pockets of those who are working. Everything in it will be paid for.’’
Obama’s contentions are unlikely to go unchallenged by Republicans, who have worked for months to cut spending rather than increase it. But he had barely completed his remarks when Speaker John Boehner and other top House GOP leaders released their letter to him declaring “our desire to work with you to find common ground.’’
With unemployment at 9.1 percent, they wrote that while their own proposals may differ from Obama’s, “we believe your ideas merit consideration by the Congress and believe the American people expect them to be given such consideration.’’
“This has been a terrible recession,’’ Obama said in Richmond, although by traditional guidelines, the economic downturn ended more than two years ago.
Public opinion surveys show Obama’s approval sinking, but Congress’ own marks are exceedingly low, and one of the major unknowns when lawmakers returned from their August vacation was whether political leaders would reach for compromise or at least disagree more politely than they had this summer.
The president emphasized repeatedly in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night that his recommendations had been embraced in the past - and in some cases authored - by Republicans.
The centerpiece of his plan is lower Social Security payroll taxes for individuals and businesses, along with new tax credits for companies that hire the long-term unemployed or veterans. Obama also wants to extend the program that provides unemployment benefits through 2012 and renew a tax break for businesses that buy new equipment.
The tax component is $253 billion, the White House says, and is accompanied by $194 billion in spending increases.
Much of the spending would go for school construction, highways, bridges and other projects, and states would receive funds to pay teachers and first responders who might otherwise be laid off.
Despite expressions of urgency, it could be weeks or months before debate begins in Congress.