President Obama signaled this weekend that he will push for action on the economy during the lame duck Congress this month.
One item he singled out is a measure he proposed earlier that would help businesses expand. It was blocked by Republicans before the elections. In an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” this weekend, the president said, “There are some things we can do to accelerate growth.” He pointed to this proposal, which would provide “that in 2011 any business that buys new equipment, or opens up a new plant can write off those expenses right away.”
Obama also pointed to rebuilding of infrastructure, and the massive job creation that would result, as something Republicans should agree on. “We still have a couple of trillion dollars worth of infrastructure improvements that need to be made around the country,” Obama said. “We spend a much lower percentage of our GDP than China’s doing or even Europe is doing.”
The president said, “Rebuilding our infrastructure is something that has garnered Democratic and Republican support. I want to have a conversation with them (the Republicans) and see if that is still the case.”
Democratic leaders and the president are planning a meeting at the White House where they will explore how far Republicans might go in supporting some of these initiatives.
Some Republican governors elected Tuesday have already said they would reject stimulus funds allocated for mass transit and infrastructure projects in their states.
In the meantime, with official unemployment rates in double-digit territory in many states across the country, millions will lose their jobless benefit lifelines which were extended to Nov. 30 this summer after GOP attempts to kill the extension were turned back. The AFL-CIO has urged representatives who will convene in the lame duck session to extend those benefits through the end of next year.
“Millions will face a bleak holiday season and the economic recovery will take a major hit if those benefits are not extended,” the federation said in a statement. Democrats expect the new tea baggers in Congress to lead the charge against extension of the lifeline for the nation’s jobless.
Labor unions are beginning to call for extensions of unemployment benefits rather than extensions of the tax cuts for the rich that congressional Republicans are advocating.
Republicans are expected to continue whipping up budget deficit hysteria. But economists say that creation of millions of good infrastructure jobs and public service jobs that cannot be exported would be an excellent way of reducing the budget deficit over the long term.
Taking issue with Republican and tea party calls for across-the-board spending cuts, Obama said, “We’re not going to be able to balance the budget just by slashing the National Parks budget or eliminating the National Weather Service.”
Tea party favorite Rand Paul, the Republican senator-elect in Kentucky, refused to say this weekend what it is he intends to cut.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Christine Amanpour repeatedly pressed Paul to “move beyond slogans and platitudes to direct information” on how the Republican Party will balance the budget and cut the deficit. Paul would only say he was going to support a balanced budget amendment and that cuts needed to come from across the board. He was unwilling to name a single significant thing that he would slash.
Activists say that if Republicans block measures designed to grow the economy, they will expose their willingness to have an indefinitely continuing recession, as long as Wall Street profits are protected.
The GOP is also expected to work extra hard to prevent passage of several other progressive measures.
“Aides in both parties suggest the chances for action on a series of other issues, from passing food safety legislation to repealing the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy are diminishing,” wrote John Harwood in the New York Times Sunday. “The two top priorities for the session are stop-gap financing to keep the government running, and a legislative compromise to avert outright expiration on Dec. 31 of the Bush tax cuts.”
Tea partiers are already threatening to kill legislation that would raise the debt ceiling and to force a shut down of all government services.
The Republicans and the tea party are saying they will also use the post-election Congress to try to repeal health care reform. Supporters of the health reform bill plan to fight those moves by exposing how they would waste spending and actually increase the deficit.