Cantor To Obama: Let’s Nix More Than Half Your Jobs Bill

September 12, 2011 9:59 a.m.

This post was updated at 4:26 p.m.

How much of President Obama’s jobs bill is DOA in the House? According to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), probably about half of it.

“Anything that is akin to the stimulus bill I think is not going to be acceptable to the American people,” Cantor told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing Monday. “I don’t believe that our members are going to be interested in pursuing that. I certainly am not.”

Cantor’s talking about federal spending here. He has come out in favor of an alternative plan to expedite high-impact infrastructure building, by ending requirements the federal government places on surface transportation funds, and allowing states to reprioritize the money. But this plan would involve no new federal spending, and there remain significant differences between GOP leadership and the White House over how to fund new projects.

Separately, the stimulus bill wasn’t nearly all spending. About a third of its cost came from the very sort of tax cuts and credits that Obama’s new jobs bill contains, and Republicans are more likely to support. Another big chunk of the $787 billion price tag came from an un-stimulative patch that Congress passes every year to prevent the Alternative Minimum Tax from ensnaring middle class taxpayers.But the focus here is on new federal spending. And depending on how you tally up the spending measures in the jobs bill — whether Republicans will yield, as they’ve signaled they might, on unemployment insurance — that’s about a third to a half of the cost of the entire legislative package. Most crucially, it’s all of the bill’s direct hiring measures. I asked Cantor whether he thought the plan in its entirety would benefit the economy. After a brief pause, he demurred.

“I haven’t had a chance to see the bill, there is no bill yet, so I want to wait to see the bill,” Cantor said. “I will tell you that over half, I think, of the total dollar amount is so-called stimulus spending. We’ve been there, done that. The country can not afford more spending like the stimulus bill.”

The White House’s own descriptions of its bill indicate that, spending is just under half the cost of the bill. It rises to more than half if you don’t count extension of the current payroll tax cut as new stimulus.

There could easily be a fight about how to pay for the plan as well. The White House is proposing to pay for most of it by ending tax deductions and closing loopholes that benefit wealthy Americans and private equity firms and hedge fund managers. On the latter, Cantor said Republicans would have to look very closely at Obama’s proposal.

“If there is an underlying ownership interest in an asset meaning that there is capital at risk, so if the deal goes bust there’s no money if the deal’s successful, there’s a return, you pay the capital income tax…I’m not for changing that.”

President Obama’s pushing Congress, hard, to pass the whole bill. Cantor’s remarks suggest he’ll have to decide soon whether to continue his pressure campaign, or cut a deal with Republicans and get what he can quickly.

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