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In Iowa, partisan responses follow Obama proposal on jobs

Although President Barack Obama‘s joint address was billed as a proposal roll-out for the American economy and unemployment, there was a underlying theme of warning to those in Washington that everyday citizens are growing tired of partisan politics, bickering and stalemates. It remains unclear if the plan or the caution found favor. Responses from the Iowa’s federal delegation and other state leaders — many of which were likely drafted prior to the actual speech — reference ongoing partisan disputes about the federal budget and debt, and offer few clues about the path those in the beltway will take forward. The American Jobs Act, the plan launched by the White House Thursday night during the joint address, has several key points:

  • Tax Cuts for Businesses
  • Tax Cuts for Individuals/Families
  • Incentives To Address Unemployment

Obama has promised that the plan, which is estimated to hold a $447 billion price tag, will not impact the national deficit. He said he will call on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to come up with additional initiatives that will pay for the proposed plan and still meet reduction targets. A more detailed plan of what the Obama administration would like to see will be forthcoming, he said. Costs associated with the plan break down as follows:

  • Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire & Grow — $70 billion
  • Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America — $140 billion
  • Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs — $62 billion
  • More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family — $175 billion

Iowa Responses Hint Continued Partisanship The most critical of the responses from the Iowa delegation came from Kiron Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King, who based the White House for not offering an immediate detailed plan for payment. “The President has given his jobs proposal speech tonight, and put a series of things into the speech, none of which had a price tag on that I could see. And he asked us to figure out how to pay for all of that in the Super Committee that will be meeting in October. I think the President has made a lot of proposals; I’d like to hear him make a proposal on how he is going to do what he said he was going to do which is reduce our deficit and pay down our national debt,” said King. “I think given the proposal of spending some number that approaches another trillion dollars makes it impossible to pay down our national debt. We first have to balance the budget. The best thing he could have done would be call for a balanced budget amendment, instead he called for a lot more spending and he called for us to figure out how to pay for it. And he told us this is all paid for; well it is if we figure out how to do that here in Congress.” As a part of the earlier debt-ceiling deal struck by Congress and the White House, all members of Congress will vote on a balanced budget amendment later this year, following the work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, commonly referred to as the Super Committee. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, another Iowa Republican, described the proposal as “more of the same,” and in-line with the earlier federal stimulus effort. “That massive government spending bill passed two years ago, right after the President took office, and was touted by the administration as a way to keep unemployment below eight percent, which it hasn’t be a long shot,” Grassley said. “When we’ve testing something like that, and it failed, we need to try something new.” Grassley believes new incentives should predominantly appeal to the nation’s business sector, providing long-term answers as to regulatory and tax reforms to allow better future planning. “The best way for Congress and the President to lessen that [corporate] anxiety is to make a serious effort to get rid of duplicative, outdated regulations and really consider the economic impact of forthcoming regulations before reflexively moving them forward, as in the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed dust regulation, which doesn’t reflect an understanding of farming and the economic impact on rural communities; to make sure the biggest tax increased in the history of the country, which everyone knows is coming on December 31, 2012, doesn’t happen; and to get under control the excessive government spending that’s tripled the national debt over the last two years,” he said. Grassley said he is willing to work with those on the other side of the political aisle, “but that doesn’t mean more of the same.” Iowa’s third Republican federal lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, appeared to be the only of the three that picked up on the appeal for more cooperation or at least chose to address the same in his response. “There is one thing that all Americans can agree upon tonight; that too many of our neighbors continue to struggle with unemployment, grim economic news, and anxiety about the future due to the worst economic downturn in a generation,” Latham said. “The simple truth is that we must do better as a Congress and as a government to work together to find real solutions to these problems. Our nation’s history has proven time and again that when Americans set aside our partisan differences and work together towards common sense solutions we can achieve great things. I am, as I have always been during my service to Iowans, committed and ready to work with anyone, regardless of political affiliation, who is willing to join me to move our country forward and once again give the American people the peace of mind of long-term economic security.” On the Democratic side of the Iowa delegation, there was hesitation toward the plan as well, with most members electing to praise the portions of the plan found most appealing. “I am encouraged that the President’s proposal goes to the heart of [creating a short-term federal agenda to boost the economy and create jobs] by investing in the jobs that sustain a strong middle class. In particular, new funding he proposed for educator jobs will keep teachers in the classrooms. This echoes a bill that I pushed through Congress last year to provide $10 billion to keep teachers on the job in the face of deep cuts to state budgets,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, who also praised initiatives that would renovate schools and rebuild and repair the nation’s infrastructure. “As we move forward, we must also address the fact that two-thirds of adults with disabilities are not working. In the HELP Committee, I intend to continue to hold hearings on the best way to address this issue.” Special interests, said U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, must be removed from the process in order for Congress to find its way forward in a bipartisan manner. ““Washington needs to get its priorities straight and focus on how to spur hiring and create an environment that fosters job growth, instead of continuing the firestorm of empty rhetoric and political pandering. I am hopeful that the President’s speech will refocus lawmakers on what really matters – jobs,” he said. “In order to invest in job creation, Washington must get on the same page as the rest of America and stop putting corporations and special interests above everyday workers and small businesses. It is clear to most Americans that oil companies are doing just fine without the taxpayer’s help. It is clear to most Americans that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can afford to pay the same percentage of payroll taxes that their own secretaries pay. It is clear to most Americans that our nation will never recover if the federal government keeps offering tax breaks to companies that outsource U.S. jobs. Let’s redirect the taxpayer dollars that fund these luxury handouts and corporate incentives to put Iowans back to work, repair our roads and bridges, update our public buildings, and get Americans making things again. I look forward to the hard work ahead.” U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack echoed the President’s call for putting people before partisanship. “I hope tonight’s speech helps refocus the debate in Washington right where it needs to be: on jobs and growing the economy,” said Braley, noting his pride that Jan Heister of Peosta, owner of Premier Tool, was invited to join First Lady Michelle Obama at the address. “In February 2010, I introduced the Back to Work Act, which provides tax incentives to businesses to hire unemployed workers and my provisions passed into law in March 2010. Since that time, over 100,000 Iowans were hired using this tax incentive, and some of these workers were hired at Jan’s company, Premier Tool. I visited Premier Tool in January 2011 and I was so proud to talk to Jan and some of the workers hired through my Back to Work Act. I’m glad the President has also recognized the good work done at Premier Tool, and invited Jan to attend tonight,” he said. Loebsack added, “Growing our economy and creating jobs should have been the number one priority since the economic downturn began. After multiple displays of ugly political posturing, Washington must finally listen to what Iowans have been telling me for a long time, we need to work together to find commonsense solutions to ensure good jobs are available. “Now that we have heard from the President, the real work begins. What is most important now are the actions Washington takes to put Iowans and our economy ahead of partisan politics and actually work together to boost jobs.” It’s always difficult to read the Washington tea leaves in determining if White House proposals will find enough favor — or at least congressional champions from both parties willing to burn the shoe leather necessary to run the bills in the chambers — to eventually become law. Consideration of the measure could be greater, Harkin said, if the Obama administration makes use of its bully pulpit. “Now that this proposal has been unveiled, I encourage the President to use the bully pulpit and fight to get it passed,” he said. “Where necessary, draw a sharp contrast to those who offer only obstruction and do-nothingism. It’s time to break up the gridlock in Washington and put America back to work. The future of our middle class – and our economy – depends on it.” An enhanced version of Obama’s address was provided by the White House and is embedded below:

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