President Obama stoked talk of a “grand bargain” in Washington on Tuesday, but his latest clarion call for compromise had nothing to do with winning over Republicans.
Obama took to the road again to call for a lowering of the corporate tax rate in exchange for heightened government investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and education. To hear Obama tell it, he was meeting the GOP halfway, making a good-faith effort to break a logjam in Washington that will likely get worse in the fall.
“If folks in Washington really want a ‘grand bargain,’ how about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs?” Obama asked a friendly crowd at an Amazon distribution center in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Using the president’s latest definition, a grand bargain is not a deal that strikes a balance between higher taxes and reductions in entitlement spending — though the White House says its previous offer remains on the table. Instead the latest iteration of the bargain would mean lowering taxes for corporations and another round of stimulus spending.
Not surprisingly, Republicans immediately dismissed Obama’s latest pitch as dead on arrival.
Even ahead of his remarks, the president’s surrogates were openly acknowledging that their main goal was not to appease Republicans.
“The bargain isn’t supposed to be for the Republicans. It’s supposed to be for the middle class,” White House Communications Director Jen Palmieri insisted during a conference call with reporters. “It would be unfortunate if House Republican leadership was closing a door on a proposal that’s going to help businesses and save middle class jobs from the start.”
In other words, just like his trio of economic speeches last week, Obama’s latest address was all about shaping the narrative for the fall’s fiscal feuds.
Congress faces an October deadline to pass a resolution that would continue funding for the government. Obama also wants to cut off the so-called sequester, the automatic, across-the-board spending reductions in the next budget. And both sides face the prospect of the government reaching its borrowing limit sometime in November.
Obama is trying to paint Republicans as unwilling to accept any kind of proposal that originates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“If we’re going to break free of the same old arguments, where I propose an idea and Republicans say no just because it’s my idea, let me try offering something that serious people in both parties should be able to support: a deal that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages for the middle-class folks who work at those businesses,” Obama said in Tennessee.
Republican leaders counter that the White House was fully aware that they wouldn't approve a tax plan that left individual rates unchanged. They charged that the proposal was blatant political posturing by Obama.
“It’s just a further-left version of a widely panned plan he already proposed two years ago,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “In fact, it could actually hurt small businesses. And it represents an unmistakable signal that the president has backed away from his campaign-era promise to corporate America that tax reform would be revenue neutral to them.”
Obama wants to cut the corporate tax rate of 35 percent to 28 percent and give manufacturers an even lower rate of 25 percent — a proposal the president floated last year. Rather than link the corporate tax cuts with an overhaul of the individual rate, as he did previously, Obama pressed for more federal spending on his jobs blueprint.
The White House says the new government spending would be funded through a one-time transition fee on foreign earnings now kept overseas, but it remains unclear how much money that proposal would generate. Republicans would prefer that such revenue be used to reduce the deficit rather than increase government spending.
Obama accused his GOP rivals of not being serious about governing, saying they had become obsessed with championing the Keystone XL pipeline and repealing Obamacare — no matter the costs.
“Putting all your eggs in the basket of an oil pipeline that may only create about 50 permanent jobs,” Obama said dismissively, “and wasting the country’s time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare isn’t a jobs plan.”