By Russell Berman - 09/15/11 08:00 PM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized President Obama’s jobs plan in an economic address in Washington on Thursday, calling it “a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America.”
In a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Boehner outlined the Republican plan for job creation and urged the deficit-reduction supercommittee to lay the groundwork for an overhaul of the tax code. At the same time, he restated the GOP’s long-held opposition to tax increases to bring down the deficit, saying they are “off the table” and not “a viable option” for the supercommittee.
“It strikes me as odd that at a time when it’s clear that the tax code needs to be fundamentally reformed, the first instinct out of Washington is to come up with a host of new tax credits that make the tax code more complex,” Boehner said. “It’s probably not realistic to think the Joint Committee could rewrite the tax code by November 23. But it can certainly lay the groundwork by then for tax reform in the future that will enhance economic growth and enhance the environment for economic growth.”
“The committee can develop principles for broad-based tax reform that will lower rates for individuals and corporations while closing deductions, credits, and special carve-outs in our tax code,” Boehner said.
While opposing tax increases – including allowing the George W. Bush-era tax cuts to expire – he voiced support for closing tax loopholes, which could include tax breaks for oil and gas companies that Democrats have been clamoring to scrap for years.
Boehner couched his address in bipartisan rhetoric and said some of Obama’s proposals, which he didn’t specify, offered “opportunities for common ground.” But his speech is likely to significantly dim expectations for passage of many elements of the president’s plan. In pushing for comprehensive tax reform, Boehner criticized the kind of temporary tax credits that are central to Obama’s proposal.
Obama is proposing a combination of infrastructure spending, temporary tax cuts for businesses and individuals, free trade agreements and an extension of unemployment insurance as a way of boosting job growth, which slowed to a halt in August.
Acknowledging the economy had stalled, Boehner declared job creators across the country to be “basically on strike” and placed the blame for the nation’s economic woes squarely on Washington and the policies of the Obama administration.
“The problem is not confusion about the policies, ... the problem is the policies,” Boehner said. “The anger many Americans have been feeling in recent years is beginning to turn into fear ... fear of our future.”
“What we need to do is to liberate our economy from the shackles of Washington. Let our economy grow!” Boehner said. “The instinct in government, always, is to get bigger, more intrusive, more meddlesome. And that instinct is at direct odds with the things that make the American economy move.”
The Speaker cited excessive regulation, higher taxes and too much spending as a “triple threat” to job creation. He spoke at length about rolling back regulations, which is the cornerstone of the House GOP’s fall agenda. Boehner referenced the recent federal raid of the Gibson Guitar factories in Tennessee and touted the House passage on Thursday of a bill aimed at blocking a move by the National Labor Relations Board to prevent Boeing from relocating a plant to South Carolina.
Boehner urged Obama to call a Cabinet meeting and direct his secretaries to report to him on policies that are inhibiting job growth.
“The members of the president’s Cabinet are not doing their jobs if they aren’t constantly focused on removing impediments to job growth,” he said, drawing a rare round of applause from a lunchtime audience that listened quietly to most of his speech. “If they’re not focused on that, they should be fired.”
While acknowledging skepticism across Washington about the deficit supercommittee, Boehner said he was “optimistic” it could succeed in its charge of finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. He did not say whether he agreed with lawmakers and outside groups who are calling on the panel to expand its mandate, and he said it was too soon to say whether the committee would be involved in finding offsetting cuts to pay for a jobs bill, as Obama has proposed.
On taxes, Boehner stuck to his insistence that aside from closing loopholes, they should not be increased.
“Tax increases I think are off the table and I don’t think l they are a viable option for the Joint Committee,” he said. “It’s a very simple equation. Tax increases destroy jobs. And the Joint Committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country.”
Democrats quickly criticized his speech, which lasted just longer than 20 minutes.
“Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans think the answer to our economic challenges is more of the same failed policies to protect the ultra wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” said Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Speaker Boehner and House Republicans refuse to make billionaires and Big Oil pay their fair share so we can help small businesses create real middle-class jobs.”
This story was posted at 1:02 p.m. and has been updated.