President Obama’s "Promise Zones" for five areas of the nation got tepid praise from Kentucky’s Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul Thursday, but other lawmakers were harshly critical and the GOP blasted the proposal as too long in the making and too little for most struggling Americans.
McConnell a frequent critic of Obama economic policies, said he supports the designation for eight hard-hit coal counties in his state, but pointed out their deprivation is partly a result of administration energy policies.
Paul touted his and McConnell’s proposal for "Economic Freedom Zones" that would apply more broadly, lowering taxes dramatically.
"We don't pick winners and losers," Paul said.
"The Republican approach is to learn from past mistakes," McConnell said before the White House unveiling of the plan. "It's about turning the left's good intentions into policies that can actually get the job done."
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, was more critical
of the proposal, calling it "an admission that five years of tax, spend, borrow, and regulate have produced economic misery for countless Americans.
"[Obama’s] policies are growing the government and shrinking the middle class," Sessions said in a statement. "Since the president declared the end of the recession, conditions for working Americans have not improved. Surely the president does not believe the five 'promise zones' are a sufficient remedy when 91.5 million Americans are outside the workforce."
Sessions lashed out at Obama for having no plan to help the unemployed find good-paying jobs and that his top priority remains an " immigration bill crafted by CEOs that will double the flow of new workers from abroad to compete in every industry and sector throughout the U.S. economy.
"If the president succeeds in pushing through the House his plan to take jobs needed by Americans, he will have to create many more 'promise zones' for the millions of displaced workers," Sessions said
The Republican National Committee also hammered the proposal, USA Today reported.
"Last year President Obama promised to partner with the 20 hardest-hit areas of the country and 330 days later he still doesn't have results," said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.
"While House Republicans have passed dozens of bills to encourage economic growth, incomes are down and poverty is up for far too many Americans on Obama's watch."
The GOP elaborated on that critique, calling the promise zones rollout "Obama’s recycled idea."
In a statement, the GOP noted
Obama already promised 20 such zones in his Feb. 12, 2013 State of the Union address, but during the year the idea "languished" while the five communities Thursday’s proposal is supposed to help -- San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma -- were the very places that "continued to struggle in the Obama economy."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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