President to propose 'grand bargain' on jobs
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Barack Obama will offer a new proposal Tuesday that would cut corporate taxes while investing in programs that could put more Americans in well paying, full-time jobs, the White House said.
The so-called "grand bargain" is being made in an attempt to break partisan gridlock currently plaguing attempts to pass deficit-reducing budget plans, though congressional Republicans signaled on Tuesday they were unlikely to back the plan, which the president will formally announce at an Amazon.com distribution center in Tennessee.
"Today what he is saying is that he would be willing to go forward with corporate tax reform if it is part of a larger package that includes critical investments in things like infrastructure, manufacturing and innovation hubs and community college training to help close existing and future skill gaps," Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
Obama will suggest Congress cut corporate tax rates - long a goal of Republicans - while simultaneously making jobs investments, which Democrats and the president have been championing.
In the past, both Obama and Republicans have insisted that corporate tax reform be passed alongside reform for individual earners. Republicans argue that many small business owners file taxes as individuals, and would only benefit from an overhaul of the entire tax code.
The president's plan would propose slashing the corporate tax rate to 28% from 35% while making the filing process simpler and ramping up incentives for small businesses to hire workers.
The plan would also put the tax rate on manufacturers at 25% and remove current tax incentives to send jobs overseas.
On Tuesday, Obama will explain that he's open to changing only the corporate tax code as long as it's combined with major investments in programs that create high-paying middle class jobs. He'll call for bolstering the country's manufacturing infrastructure and network of community colleges.
He'll also propose creating 45 "innovation institutes" that pair companies with universities and community colleges with the goal of fostering research and development.
Early reaction from Republicans to the outlines of the president's plan was not receptive.
"While I understand he is looking for headlines here, reports indicate that the policy he intends to announce doesn't exactly qualify as news," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. "It is just a further left version of a widely panned plan he already proposed two years ago, this time with extra goodies for tax-and-spend liberals."
McConnell said he first learned of the place Monday night. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, wrote on Twitter his office learned of the proposed "grand bargain" through media reports, though White House officials said they reached out to a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday to discuss the proposal.
Michael Steel, another spokesman for Boehner, cast the proposal as old news.
"The President has always supported corporate tax reform," Steel wrote in a statement. "Republicans want to help families and small businesses, too. This proposal allows President Obama to support President Obama's position on taxes and President Obama's position on spending, while leaving small businesses and American families behind."
Another House Republican leadership aide said the White House was taking their own plan and making it less amenable to Republicans than previous offers, while "trying to extract a ransom of infrastructure spending" at the same time.
The aide argued the new White House plan was an attempt to "get a headline that says they're offering a grand bargain."
Sperling attempted to rebuff claims the plan amounted to rehashing old offers on a conference call with reporters.
"In terms of the things that are new, our main goal here was not to announce new details as much as to make clear that the president is putting forward a new kind of grand bargain for middle class jobs," he said.
Obama's address in Chattanooga is the latest in a series of speeches the president will deliver on the economy and jobs, part of an attempt to turn back to the issue that rates as most important among Americans. The tour began last week in Illinois, Missouri and Florida.
Tuesday's announcement of a "grand bargain" will be the first specific proposal the president makes in his new push to focus on the economy, though White House officials say there will be more as the initiative continues.
Amazon.com, whose facility Obama will speak at Tuesday, announced this week plans to hire 7,000 workers for its U.S. operation, with most jobs offering pay and benefits far above typical retail wages, the company said.
Amazon did not give specific pay scales for the positions, but said the 5,000 warehouse jobs will pay 30% more than jobs in traditional retail stores.
The jobs are full-time permanent positions and also include stock grants that, over the last five years, have averaged 9% of pay for Amazon's full-time workers. And the company said many workers would also be eligible for 95% tuition reimbursement for those attending college, whether or not their field of study is related to their job.
In addition, Amazon is looking for 2,000 workers for its customer service department, with those jobs being a mix of full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.
-- CNN's Brianna Keilar, Chris Isidore, Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
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