- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stealing a page from President Obama’s transparency book, House Republicans on Wednesday asked Democratic leaders to hold an on-camera meeting with them on the economy and how to create jobs.

“Despite our differences, we believe that it is imperative for us to begin discussions and work together toward a shared goal of putting Americans back to work,” the House’s top two Republicans wrote in a letter to the House’s top two Democrats.

The letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer comes as Democrats remain divided over how to address the nation’s unemployment rate and as growing public distrust of Congress has made a transparent process nearly as important as the results.

Several lawmakers say that one of the lessons of Sen. Scott Brown’s surprise win in Massachusetts was that voters are upset with bipartisan bickering and each party leaving the other out. Mr. Obama also faced months of criticism for not airing health reform meetings on C-SPAN, a transparency promise he made while he was running for office.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Hoyer, of Maryland, said he is interested in the idea.

“Leader Hoyer is always interested in talking to Republicans who want to offer serious, substantive ideas and work constructively together toward solutions,” said spokeswoman Katie Grant. “He is encouraged that the House Republican leadership appears interested in taking him up on his repeated offers to work together and reach compromises on critical issues including job creation and strengthening the economy.”

Mr. Obama challenged House Republicans on their health care proposals in a televised meeting last month and was able to put them on the defensive for not offering a comprehensive alternative. Republicans, for their part, said they would never support a broad plan but instead favor a step-by-step approach.

House Republicans want another chance to air their opinions and policy suggestions on public television with their Democratic counterparts.

“Though House Democrats have yet to participate in such a forum, we write to ask that you follow this precedent and agree to participate in an open meeting focused on job creation and economic growth between leaders of both parties in the House,” wrote Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

A plan Mr. Cantor gave to Mr. Obama during the White House jobs summit in December would eliminate tax increases - including an extension of the tax cuts implemented under former President George W. Bush, freeze discretionary spending, reform the unemployment system, and reduce certain corporate offshore taxes, among other ideas.

The House passed a $154 billion jobs bill in December - a proposal that would have sent money to highway projects and localities to help pay public employees’ salaries that was opposed by all Republicans and 38 Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced his own $15 billion jobs bills this month, but only after refusing a plan crafted by the top Democrat and top Republican on the Finance Committee. The move prompted Republicans to accuse him of casting aside any hopes of bipartisan cooperation. Mr. Reid said the bill was overloaded with unrelated special-interest projects.

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