Republican lawmakers Wednesday presented President Barack Obama with their plan to tackle unemployment, proposing a freeze on tax hikes until the jobless rate falls below five percent.
Obama hosted both Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the White House to discuss the economic situation and unemployment, a day after he announced a plan to use funds left over from the so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to help tackle unemployment, which stands at 10 percent.
Republicans oppose the dispersal of the public funds, which were originally set aside to rescue financial institutions, and want Obama to instead put the unused money towards a budget deficit that stands at 1.3 trillion dollars.
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The number-two Republican in the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, presented Obama with the "No-Cost Jobs Plan," which suggests freezing tax increases and halting some public spending.
The plan also calls for more domestic production of energy, including oil, as well as corporate tax cuts intended to encourage firms to repatriate earnings collected abroad and the approval of pending free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Obama pledged Tuesday to tackle the "continuing human tragedy" of unemployment and gird a small improvement in the jobless figures this month with unused TARP funds.
He also renewed a pledge to reduce the federal budget deficit by half by the end of his first term in early 2013.
Obama's proposal will need to be approved by Congress, and the Democratic House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, said Tuesday that the plan could cost between 75 and 150 billion dollars and legislation would take between 30 and 40 days to prepare.
Obama said Wednesday he wants to work with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to tackle the country's jobless rate, which many Americans fear will not recover even as other economic indicators begin to show improvement.
"It's no secret that there's been less than full bipartisan support for the recovery act and some of the steps that have broken the freefall of our economy," Obama said.
"But my hope is, is that as we move forward, we can do so together, recognizing that we have a shared responsibility to meet our economic challenges on behalf of all Americans."
"Spurring hiring and economic growth are not Democratic or Republican issues, they are American issues that affect every single one of our constituents," the president said after the meeting.
"I'm confident we can put our economic troubles behind us, but it's going to require some work and cooperation and a seriousness of purpose here in Washington and I hope that... the leaders that I just met with will feel the same way."
But in comments after the meeting to Fox News, Cantor said "what we heard is an insistence that somehow we need to keep spending money that we don't have.
"That's really where the difference lies between the two approaches here in Washington," he added.
U.S. unemployment figures remain at levels not seen since the beginning of the 1980s, despite improving slightly from 10.2 percent in October to 10 percent in November.
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