CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- President Barack Obama offered congressional Republicans yesterday a new corporate tax cut and jobs spending package he said might "help break through some of the political logjam in Washington," only to have GOP lawmakers immediately throw cold water on it.
The announcement and quick rejection underscored how elusive common ground is between the Democratic White House and Republicans in Congress on fiscal issues. The divide was particularly stark on the corporate tax proposal, given that both parties generally have supported overhauling the code for businesses, though the White House and Republicans have differed on specifics.
Obama outlined his proposal in a speech at a massive Amazon.com plant in Chattanooga, his latest stop on a summertime campaign to refocus his agenda on the economy. He said "serious people" in both parties should accept his offer.
"I'm willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs," Obama said. "That's the deal."
But the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) complained that Obama's plan was simply a repackaging of proposals the White House has always supported.
"It's the opposite of a concession," said spokesman Brendan Buck, noting that Republicans want to link a corporate tax overhaul with changes in the individual tax code.
Boehner and the White House also dueled over the proposal's rollout, with the speaker's office saying they first learned about the plan from media reports. An Obama spokesman said the White House tried to tell Boehner's staff about it a day in advance, but the call was not returned.
Like Republicans, the president previously has called for corporate tax reform to be coupled with an individual tax overhaul. But his new offer drops that demand, calling only for lowering the corporate rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, with an even lower effective tax rate of 25 percent for manufacturers.
The White House also said the president will continue to seek changes to the individual tax rate as part of a larger "grand bargain" he wants with the GOP. But with the prospects of such a deal growing increasingly slim, Obama advisers say they've opted to isolate an area on taxes where they believe they have more agreement with Republicans.