- Associated Press - Monday, February 7, 2011

When President Obama asked businesses for advice on creating jobs, he might have anticipated that more than 200 responses would quickly be headed his way courtesy of Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican who once called him corrupt.

A month before Mr. Obama reached out to businesses, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent 171 letters to various businesses and their trade associations. He asked for help in “identifying existing and proposed regulations that have negatively impacted job growth.”

On Thursday, Mr. Issa is giving business representatives an opportunity at a hearing by his committee to vent their frustration with government requirements issued by unelected bureaucrats. He wants Mr. Obama to include their responses in a review of government regulations the president ordered last month in the administration’s effort to find rules that cost Americans jobs.

Mr. Issa and Mr. Obama don’t have to look far. Last month, the Associated Press reported that the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement estimates the administration’s proposal for protecting streams from coal mining would strip away about 7,000 of the industry’s nearly 81,000 jobs.

Large and small businesses and trade associations told the California lawmaker that they want to change or eliminate more than 100 regulations more than half related to the environment and others governing financial rules, the workplace and transportation.

The president’s initiative opened the door for Mr. Issa to walk through as Mr. Obama looks to improve a frayed relationship with business before the 2012 election. In addition to the regulatory review, the president enlisted the help of two powerhouse executives to advise him on job creation and competitiveness: AOL co-founder Steve Case and General Electric Chief Executive Jeffrey R. Immelt.

Mr. Obama on Monday defended government regulations in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce even as he promised to eliminate those that are too burdensome.

Politically, it would appear that Mr. Issa and Mr. Obama are on the same page for the moment even though the congressman once called Mr. Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” Mr. Issa later clarified the comment, saying he was referring to wasteful spending, not criminal corruption.

Mr. Issa said Monday, “The president has recognized the value in examining the regulatory barriers impeding private-sector job creation.” In addition to his letters, Mr. Issa has launched a new website, www.americanjobcreators.com, that invites businesses to describe their problems with government regulations.

But with both parties looking toward the 2012 election, the traditional political divisions could emerge when it’s time to act on the responses. Republicans want Mr. Obama to throw EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson under the bus as she moves to set stricter air-pollution standards under the Clean Air Act, including for the gases blamed for climate change. Democrats passed a bill to limit the amount of greenhouse gases two years ago when they controlled the House, but the measure never got a vote in the Senate.

House Republicans have scheduled a vote this week on broadening a congressional review of regulations. A resolution would direct 10 committees to identify federal requirements that impede job creation, discourage innovation, hurt economic growth and investment, harm global competitiveness and limit access to credit and capital.

Mr. Issa says he’s just trying to help the administration get a more comprehensive view of the impact of its regulatory proposals and is not making judgments on the proposals themselves.

“As the Obama administration begins the process of complying with the president’s directive, we are putting forward the other half of the conversation input directly from job creators,” he said. “This effort is meant to complement what the president has ordered and should be a starting point for the broader discussion that will unfold about the regulatory barriers to job creation.”

Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a private group that monitors federal regulatory actions, said Mr. Issa’s hearing and the letters he solicited just give corporate interests more opportunities to insist that the administration’s regulatory proposals are job killers, a claim he says is unproven.

“These letters are designed around building momentum on putting pressure on the administration to cut back on federal regulations,” Mr. Bass said.