- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

President Obama’s jobs council endorsed a wide range of pro-growth proposals Tuesday that includes building oil pipelines and expanding drilling in the U.S., steps that House Republicans promptly noted are being blocked by Senate Democrats.

“The Road Map to Renewal” submitted to Mr. Obama by his team of industry leaders embraces more domestic production of fossil fuels. The report doesn’t specifically mention the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline on which the Obama administration has delayed a decision, but it does advocate building more domestic pipelines.

“Policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects are necessary to facilitate the delivery of America’s fuel and electricity and maintain the reliability of our nation’s energy system,” the report says.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the report wasn’t referring to Keystone, which environmental groups are pressuring the administration to reject.

“The jobs council wasn’t talking about Keystone specifically,” Mr. Carney said. “The jobs council was talking about the importance of expanding domestic oil and gas production, a goal this president shares.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the presidential jobs council’s recommendations for expanding domestic energy production, cutting government red tape and overhauling business taxes are exactly the policies passed by the House in the past year. Most of those bills have stalled in the Senate.

Late last year, GOP lawmakers approved legislation forcing the administration to make a decision on the Keystone pipeline, which could create 20,000 jobs, by the end of February.

“Nearly 30 House-passed job bills are awaiting action in the Senate, most of which address the recommendations made today,” Mr. Boehner said. “With American small businesses still suffering from the misguided policies implemented by the president, there is no excuse for these pro-growth bills to collect dust any longer.”

Among the council’s other recommendations that Republican lawmakers have supported:

• Lower corporate tax rates to “internationally competitive levels” while eliminating deductions and loopholes.

• Streamline government rules and regulations to reduce the financial burdens on businesses.

• Take more aggressive action to promote American manufacturing.

• Adopt an “all in” strategy on energy to reduce reliance on foreign oil and move toward cleaner fuel sources.

At a meeting at the White House on Tuesday morning, Mr. Obama cautioned that Congress might block the council’s legislative proposals to create jobs this year.

“I want you to know that obviously this year is an election year, and so getting Congress focused on some of these issues may be difficult,” said Mr. Obama, adding that he would keep pursuing some recommendations “administratively.”

The president’s regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, reported to the council that the administration’s efforts to cut needless rules and regulations in its first three years are resulting in a much greater benefit to industry than the same period during the administration of President George W. Bush.

“The bulk of regulatory costs in the last five years have been from the previous administration,” Mr. Sunstein said.

Last week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said an “avalanche” of new regulations, including more than 200 in the works at the Environmental Protection Agency and 447 rules from the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, caused “a big drag on our economy.”

A review of the Obama administration’s first 33 months found that the number of significant federal rules, defined as those costing industry more than $100 million, rose to 129, compared with 90 under Mr. Bush during the same time frame.

Council member Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast Corp. and a wealthy donor who hosted Mr. Obama at his home on Martha’s Vineyard last summer, told the president he must do a better job of convincing the public that he has succeeded at cutting red tape.

“Brian, that’s music to my ears,” Mr. Obama said. “The gap between perception and practice on this is probably greater than any other area.”

Other members of the jobs council include Steve Case, former chairman of AOL; Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric Co.; Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express Co.; Ellen Kullman, chairman and CEO of DuPont Co.; Paul S. Otellini, president and CEO of Intel Corp.; Penny Pritzker, chairwoman of Pritzker Realty Group; Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; Laura D. Tyson, a former Clinton administration official on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley; and Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank.

Several council members are big-money donors to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign. Ms. Pritzker served as national finance chairwoman for the Obama campaign in 2008. She and Mr. Wolfe are “bundlers” who have raised at least $2.7 million for Mr. Obama in 2008 and this election cycle.

The president congratulated the council, which he appointed a year ago, for its hard work.

“This has not been a show council,” Mr. Obama said. “This has been a work council.”

The panel has generated dozens of mostly modest proposals since its inception. Mr. Obama has acted or begun to act on 33 of 35 recommendations that can be accomplished by executive action. Another 17 proposals would require congressional action.

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