Senate Republicans present Obama with counteroffer on jobs

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled their own jobs package and called on President Obama to enter negotiations reconciling it with parts of his own jobs bill.

They said the package was developed in response to criticisms that the GOP had no positive agenda, and took pains to say the bill was an opening offer for negotiations with the White House.

The GOP package includes proposals anathema to Democrats, such as the complete repeal of Obama’s healthcare reform law and financial regulatory reform bills, but it also has a number of proposals that enjoy some bipartisan support.

“From a Republican point of view this is a welcomed development. We have to be for something,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. “I wish the president would have a jobs summit … this is an offer by the Republican party.”

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who led the effort to craft the Jobs Through Growth Act, said that the package was developed in part because Obama has been touring the country claiming the GOP does not have its own jobs agenda.

“Part of it is a response to the president saying we don’t have a proposal,” McCain said.

He also called for talks with the president. “There has been no outreach by the president or his people to us,” he said.

“We are tired of him going around the country saying we don’t have a jobs plan,” Paul said of Obama. “We want to have a constructive conversation with him.”

Sen. Paul predicted that the bill when enacted would create 5 million new jobs.

The senators said that most of the package has been floating around for months, and McCain said almost the entire GOP caucus is on board with the plan.

Appearing on stage to unveil the package in the Senate TV studio were McCain, Paul and Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Mike Johanns (Neb.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Graham, Jim DeMint (S.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah), Dean Heller (Nev.), Dan Coats (Ind.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.).

Of the proposals in the bill, McCain said, “tax reform is certainly is something that is bipartisan” and he said he hopes the proposal to grant a tax holiday to allow corporations to repatriate overseas income could also make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

He said that he disagreed with a proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to tie repatriation to a proposal for a national infrastructure bank, however. 

The GOP Jobs act also proposes a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a type of line-item veto, a complete moratorium on federal regulations, medical malpractice reform, a reform of the National Labor Relations Board and a series of measures to ease regulations on oil, gas and mining activities.

On trade, it proposes renewing the president’s authority to negotiate free-trade agreements and have them enjoy fast-track approval in Congress.

On regulations, the bill contains a measure requiring congressional approval of all new regulations and several measures aimed at specific environmental regulations, including one ending regulation of farm dust.

The bill also includes a proposal to end a requirement that the federal government withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors as a way to ensure taxes are paid. That proposal was reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday with bipartisan support.

This story was updated at 4:08 p.m.