- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

President Obama convened a rare meeting with top congressional leaders from both parties Wednesday morning to discuss job creation as unemployment continues in the double digits and a new poll shows his approval rating at an all-time low.

Mr. Obama said he hoped for bipartisan agreement on measures he outlined in an address Tuesday, including a one-year elimination of the capital gains tax for small businesses and tax incentives to encourage firms to hire and retain workers.

“It’s no secret that there’s been less than full bipartisan support for the Recovery Act and some of the steps that have broken the freefall of our economy” Mr. Obama said after the meeting, which included 18 House and Senate leaders. “I absolutely am committed to working with anybody who is willing to do the job to make sure we can rebuild our economy.”

Mr. Obama reiterated his call for many of the same policies from the $787 billion stimulus package — more infrastructure spending, incentives for home weatherization and aid to local governments — but made it clear he was leaving the details to Congress.

At the meeting Wednesday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia handed Mr. Obama a plan that Republicans say would create jobs at no cost by halting regulations that would harm business, approving pending trade agreements and freezing domestic discretionary spending. Other Republican proposals include no tax increases until unemployment is at 5 percent and giving businesses a window to repatriate their earnings back to the U.S. at a lower tax rate.

“The discussions in the meeting I think were cordial, more in-depth perhaps than usual,” 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 leaders on Capitol Hill have suggested using money left over from the Wall Street bailout to pay for at least some of the measures, such as helping small businesses get credit. Republicans say using money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program for anything other than paying down the national debt would be unlawful.

The meeting comes as Mr. Obama’s job approval has fallen to 46 percent, his lowest since taking office, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. The poll also found that a majority of likely voters oppose Mr. Obama on his marquee issue of health care, with 52 percent of voters against the bill in Congress and only 38 percent in support of it.

“After examining the policies of this administration and the Democratic Congress over the last year, it’s clear this administration just doesn’t get it,” House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence said.

It’s not clear whether any Republican ideas will be incorporated into the jobs effort if history is any guide. Mr. Obama hosted bipartisan meetings on the stimulus bill and health care earlier this year, but Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill wrote the bills largely without GOP input.

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