Obama still hopes for bipartisan support on jobs

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2009 2:55 PM

Despite Republican opposition on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he's still hoping for bipartisan support for his efforts to use financial bailout money to help small businesses and bring down double-digit unemployment.

"I am absolutely committed to working with anybody who is willing to do the job to make sure we rebuild our economy," Obama said after emerging from a White House meeting with a group of Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

Obama repeated his proposals for more infrastructure spending, tax breaks for small businesses, and incentives for Americans to make their homes more energy efficient. He also wants to extend economic stimulus programs to keep unemployment insurance from expiring for millions of out-of-work Americans and to help laid-off workers keep their health insurance.

Obama hasn't given a price tag for the new package but said he would work with Congress on deciding how to pay for it. Some lawmakers put the total cost of the new proposals at $200 billion or more.

Republican lawmakers have ridiculed both the president's proposals and his parallel call for doing more to hold down government deficits. During Wednesday's meeting, GOP leaders presented the president with their alternative "no-cost" jobs plan that calls for a freeze in federal spending and no tax increases until the unemployment rate comes down.

"We can't keep spending money we don't have," Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, said after the meeting.

Despite the president's call for bipartisanship, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday's discussion "was not without politics."

A House Republican aide aware of details about the meeting said the president accused the GOP of rooting against a recovery because of next year's midterm elections. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

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Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.