House G.O.P. Leaders Find Some Things to Like About Obama’s Jobs Plan

John Boehner

After a week of gingerly walking the line of conciliation, Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, sent a letter to their members specifying a few areas where they found common ground with Mr. Obama, who presented his proposed list of tax cuts and spending programs to Congress this month.

Mr. Obama is also expected next week to suggest ways to cut the deficit to a bipartisan joint committee charged with recommending cuts, and to include his jobs package as part of the proposals.

While Republicans spent the first half of the year hammering on nearly every idea presented by the White House, they have taken a more guarded approach toward the president’s jobs agenda, trying to avoid the rancor and voter disgust that divided government has produced.

“We believe there are areas of common agreement,” the letter said, “and areas worthy of further conversation where agreement, assuming there are good faith discussions, may be possible.”

 Among the areas of agreement that Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor cite is the extension of the payroll tax holiday for employees and small business, although the letter criticizes the fine points of that proposal. They also said their party could back protections for small businesses against certain types of securities regulations, the extension of the ability of businesses to expense the cost of certain properties and tax credits for business that hire veterans. House Republicans also like the idea of a training program for unemployed workers.

But using language that Miss Manners might approve, the leaders also said there were “some aspects of the president’s proposal where it will be harder to find common ground.”  

Chief among those are any tax increases or any policies proposing repeat or continued spending from the 2009 stimulus package.

For example, the Republicans said they opposed the proposed $30 billion in aid to state and local governments to prevent the layoff of teachers, law enforcement officers and other municipal employees, calling it a “band-aid approach.”

They also rejected money for school construction, an idea Mr. Obama had pushed this week on his visit to sell the jobs plan to voters in North Carolina.

“School construction has historically been a state and local function,” the leaders’ letter to the Republican conference reads. “In his 2009 stimulus proposal, President Obama proposed approximately $20 billion for school construction, but the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the proposed funding.”

Also nixed was the president’s plan to rehabilitate and refurbish homes in a program aimed at stabilizing neighborhoods that have been hit hard by foreclosures.

Responding to the letter, a White House spokeswoman, Amy Brundage, said, “The American Jobs Act includes the kinds of proposals that have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past, and these bipartisan ideas need to be passed right away.”

The White House has been frustrated that many Democrats have also pushed back against some elements of his plan, particularly the ways of paying for it and its size.

While Mr. Obama may be counting on campaigning against Republicans by arguing that they stand against teachers or job creation, the Republicans are trying to pre-empt such strikes.

“We don’t question the president’s sincerity when he says he has crafted the right prescription for economic recovery,” said the letter, sent to members late Friday. “We believe good people can have honest disagreements without having their morals or commitment to country being called into question.”

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