Wyoming Republicans spar with President Obama over jobs

Aug 9, 2013

President Barack Obama

With Congress in recess for the month President Obama is preparing to continue pressuring Republicans to work with him on job creation. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Wyoming’s congressional delegation says that while his speeches rev up his base he still isn’t trying to work with the GOP.  

MATT LASLO: The president is planning to use August to hammer the GOP on jobs. He wants to lower corporate tax rates while also expanding some tax breaks for smaller businesses. Then he wants to infuse that extra revenue directly into the economy…investing in construction projects and community college job training programs. The president is blaming Republican leaders for blocking his jobs proposals.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “I’m just going to keep on throwing ideas out there to see if something takes. I’m going to lay out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot, but now it’s time for Republicans to lay out their ideas.”

LASLO: By lowering corporate tax rates the White House wants to attract trillions of dollars held overseas by US companies back onto American soil. From the sound of the president you’d think his proposal is the only one floating around in Washington, which Wyoming’s senior senator Mike Enzi didn’t care for. That’s because he’s already introduced legislation to help attract more investments in the US.  

MIKE ENZI: “You know a lot of time he’s asked us for our ideas. I haven’t seen him take anyone’s ideas yet. And it’s always disturbing to me if he rails on us for not doing them when we’ve given him ideas, and they’re not accepted.”

LASLO: As for the details, the president’s plan drops the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Enzi’s plan would drop the tax rate on foreign income to below twenty percent and allow a onetime ten point five percent tax rate on foreign earnings to get that money back in the U-S economy. Enzi says if the president were serious about wanting to work with Congress he’d get off the stump and start hashing out details on proposals like his.

ENZI: “It’s the only one that’s already in legislative form. Companies are very interested in it. It provides some penalties if they don’t bring their money back.”

LASLO: Enzi says the reason it’s hard to work on such legislation is that the president and Democrats have a different view of the role US companies play in the global economy.  

ENZI: “The president would like to make sure that no business is done in other countries; that it’s all done in the United States. That’s just not a real world principle.”

LASLO: The president’s new proposal leaves the issue of individual tax rates off the table. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis supports corporate tax reform, but she says focusing on that alone falls woefully short of what the country needs.

CYNTHIA LUMMIS: “We’re missing out on all the small business people – 80 or 90 percent of whom file their taxes as individuals, rather than as corporations. So if we’re looking at some tax reform as a means to stimulate economic growth and create jobs, we should be applying it not just to big corporations but to the small, mom and pop businesses that file their taxes as individuals, so that’s a big concern.”

LASLO: The debate over individual tax rates is part of the reason the two parties stopped negotiating and allowed sequestration to indiscriminately slice through the budget of most every federal agency. Even though it’s a contentious issue Lummis says the president should engage Republicans on it.   

LUMMIS: “Oh, he shouldn’t give up on that debate. Quite frankly we should be advocating for flatter rates and a more comprehensive reform for everyone. It is those people striving to be in the middle class and those already in the middle class that are the most impacted by this sluggish economy.”

LASLO: Before Lummis and her Republican colleagues left Washington for their August break, they took their 40th vote to repeal all or part of so-called Obamacare. Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall says it’s good the president is trying to refocus Congress on the most pressing issue facing the country.

MARK UDALL: “The key here is that the economy needs our focus. We’ve got to remain committed to job creation.”

LASLO: But the president’s call to infuse new tax revenue directly into the economy is also being met with skepticism by Lummis and other Republicans.

LUMMIS: “Past stimulus efforts have not succeeded in pulling us back to a robust economic growth situation leads me to believe that that is money that would not be money well placed. So given that approach to a bill the president is espousing, I find it hard to believe that we could find compromise.”

LASLO: Throughout August the president will continue pounding the G-O-P over the economy while back at home Republicans will do the same. That means when lawmakers return to work in September a polarized Washington may reach a boiling point.

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Matt Laslo in Washington.