Republicans are taking President-elect Obama at his word that he wants bipartisan input for the stimulus package. To that end, they will be holding an unofficial hearing in the Cannon office building on Thursday morning. A House Republican working group on the stimulus, established by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and including Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), Jeb Hensarling (R., Tex.), Pete Roskam (R., Ill.), Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and others, will be collecting input from leaders (such as Mitt Romney) and economic experts. Republican Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Conference chairman Mike Pence (R., Ind.) will be there as well.
The purpose, Republican aides say, is to gather ideas that can be presented to Obama after his inauguration next week. Not only has Obama voiced a desire for bipartisan cooperation, but he has also made Democrats uncomfortable with some of his statements on the stimulus. Republicans see a possible opportunity to have some input through the president, even if they are largely locked out of the legislative process.
Cantor and the others hope to provide an alternative direction for the stimulus from the spending free-for-all that congressional Democrats would prefer. All ideas are on the table, including not only tax cuts that will help small businesses create jobs, but also a reduction in the bottom income tax rates, exemption of unemployment benefits from the income tax, and perhaps some measures aimed at the housing market as well.
A key theme will be Obama’s stated insistence on avoiding an earmark-laden Christmas Tree spending bill. A related idea will be that the government simply cannot afford to waste money in the current economic circumstances.
The business community, meanwhile, has yet to weigh in except for those lobbying for specific spending items. But they could soon become more involved on the tax side of the equation.