- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2009

Despite failing to work together on the stimulus package and a health care bill, President Obama and Republicans promised Wednesday to give bipartisanship another try on job creation - but it’s not clear the result will be different this time around.

Hosting a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers at the White House, Mr. Obama struck a hopeful tone, saying he was optimistic that the fact of double-digit unemployment would inspire both parties to cooperate on a bill to aid small businesses and fund new infrastructure projects.

“It’s appropriate that I met with leaders of both parties,” he said. “Spurring hiring and economic growth are not Democratic or Republican issues - they are American issues that affect every single one of our constituents.”

But congressional leaders didn’t even wait to return to Capitol Hill before they turned up the rhetoric, casting doubt on the chances of a bipartisan effort.

“Stop trying to frighten the American people” was Mr. Obama’s message for Republicans, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“It’s clear this administration just doesn’t get it,” countered House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana.

The White House has cited Mr. Obama’s support for a series of small-business incentives, including a one-year elimination of the capital gains tax on investments, as a possible area of agreement. The biggest clash between the two parties is over the broader issue of whether additional government spending is needed to create jobs.

In a speech earlier this week, Mr. Obama called for a boost in many of the same policies from the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February - more infrastructure spending, incentives for home weatherization and aid to local governments - but made it clear he was leaving the details - including how to pay for the new spending - to Congress.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he gave Mr. Obama a GOP-drafted plan that would create jobs at no cost by halting regulations that would harm business, approving pending free-trade agreements and freezing domestic discretionary spending. Other Republican proposals include a moratorium on tax increases until unemployment has fallen to 5 percent - half of the current national jobless rate - and giving businesses a window to repatriate their earnings back to the U.S. at a lower tax rate.

“We can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” Mr. Cantor said.

During the meeting, Mr. Obama challenged Republicans to produce economists who said the government should not spend more money, the Virginia Republican added.

Democrats have not given any cost figures for their ideas, though Mr. Obama and congressional leaders have suggested using money left over from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund to pay for at least some of the measures. Republicans say using money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) for anything other than paying down the national debt would be unlawful.

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