(WASHINGTON) — As President Obama on Tuesday calls on Congress to cooperate on a slate of specific proposals, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor interpreted the president’s message as a positive development in Washington’s quest to help small businesses and rebuild the economy.
“We welcome that,” Cantor, R-Va., said of the to-do list from Obama. “We have been saying for some time now, please, Mr. President, let’s set aside the differences and find where we can work together to help small business growth. That’s what’ll help the economy.”
Among Obama’s proposals, which he will announce in Albany, N.Y., are a 20 percent tax break for businesses that return manufacturing jobs from abroad and a 10 percent tax credit for companies that hire new workers and increase wages. The president is also calling on Congress to enable homeowners to refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates and create a new Veterans Jobs Corps to help service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan land jobs as law enforcement and firefighters.
Asked whether he believes Republicans will be able to strike common ground with the president and Democrats considering the pace of the campaign season, Cantor reiterated that the focus of both parties should be on repairing the economy.
“We have got to be focused on small businesses,” he said. “The President will put forth a proposal today having to do with helping small businesses, making it easier for them. The difference that he’s got in one of his proposals is he wants to direct small businesses and how they commit their capital, we believe that we ought to let the investors decide on how best to allocate their capital so we can see small businesses grow again.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican Whip, contemplated the “great contrast” between the president’s policies and the legislation Republican are moving on the House floor, emphasizing that Senate Democrats have not passed a budget resolution in more than three years.
“Our focus has been on small- business job creation. That’s where jobs are started,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “The president, he’s out on the campaign trail, giving five items that we need to do. I would think his number-one item would be a message to the Senate Democrats: How can you continue to run a business or a country with no budget? Three years in a row, a trillion-dollar deficit, year over year, and no budget.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also issued a statement, writing that Obama’s list “shines a bright light on the failure of the House Republicans to address middle class economic security – the ability to get a job, start and expand a business, or own a home.”
“The American people get up every morning facing these challenges and ready to work; now, the Republican Congress must do the same,” Pelosi, D-Calif., stated. “It’s time for Republicans to abandon their agenda of obstruction and work together with Democrats to act on the President’s proposals to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow the economy. Americans can’t wait.”
Cantor also said that Republicans “believe strongly” that the sequester cuts should be substituted, rather than risk slashing too deep into the Pentagon’s budget.
“We do not believe that we should be disproportionately impacting the defense of this country, and that’s what will happen,” Cantor warned. “We will affect severely the Pentagon’s ability to address its mission if we do not substitute the cuts in that sequester.”
Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget committee, urged Democrats in Congress to channel the bipartisan agreement that the sequester cuts would “decimate our military” into their own proposals if they won’t support the GOP’s alternative.
“The problem is, only the House Republicans are doing something about this,” Ryan, R-Wis., said. “The president has not put out a plan to deal with the sequester. The Senate has chosen again for three years in a row not only not to pass a budget, but to do nothing to deal with the sequester.”
Monday night, the House Budget Committee passed a reconciliation bill comprised of various spending cuts to replace the cuts in the sequester. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on that bill Thursday.
“We’re leading. We’re planning. We’re showing specifics,” Ryan, a front-runner to be Mitt Romney’s running mate, said. “We’re showing the American people how, if Congress does its job, we can actually fix this fiscal process, this problem we have, and prevent this sequester from disproportionately decimating our military at a time when we’re asking our men and women to sacrifice for our freedoms.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Sarah Anderson, Deseret News