WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is expected to propose $300 billion in federal spending and tax cuts Thursday night to get Americans working again. Republicans offered Tuesday to compromise with him on jobs — but also assailed his plans in advance of his prime-time speech.
Lawmakers began returning to the Capitol to tackle legislation on jobs and federal deficits in an unforgiving political season spiced by the 2012 presidential campaign.
Adding to the mix: A bipartisan congressional committee is slated to hold its first public meeting on Thursday as it embarks on a quest for deficit cuts of $1.2 trillion or more over a decade. If there is no agreement, automatic spending cuts will take effect, a prospect that lawmakers in both parties have said they would like to avoid.
According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president’s proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could still be subject to change.
The White House also is considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.
And Obama is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment. The president and Congress negotiated that provision into law for 2011 last December.
Though Obama has said he intends to propose long-term deficit reduction measures to cover the up-front costs of his jobs plan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would not lay out a wholesale deficit reduction plan in his speech.
In a letter to Obama on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlined possible areas for compromise on jobs legislation. Separately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last month’s unemployment report — it showed a painfully persistent 9.1 per cent jobless rate and no net gain of jobs — “should be a wakeup call to every member of Congress.”
Whatever the potential for eventual compromise on the issue at the top of the public’s agenda, the finger pointing was already under way.