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Lawmakers Differ On Obama Jobs Plan

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 Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) talks to reporters after the president's address Sept. 8 on Capitol Hill.  
Matt Laslo
 Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) talks to reporters after the president's address Sept. 8 on Capitol Hill.  

Some of the region's lawmakers were left wanting a little more from President Obama's jobs speech before a joint session of Congress.

As a former businessman, Virginia Rep. Scott Riggell (R) sees the usefulness in the president's call to extend the current payroll tax holiday. But he was hoping to hear more on expanding oil and gas exploration off Virginia's coast. 

"This is terribly frustrating to me, especially as a Virginian, when we have these resources off the coast that we could -- including wind, you know I want to accelerate the time frame to get wind energy on the grid," he says. "I'd love for him to take what I think are some bolder steps." 

But Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) says there's no reason for Republicans to balk at a proposal that includes tax breaks for businesses, even if they disagree with some components of the plan. 

"He consciously reached across the aisle and picked proposals that either originated on the Republican side of the aisle or had very substantial Republican co-sponsorship in the past," Connolly says of the president's speech.

Obama also called for the government to pump billions of dollars into school and highway construction projects nationwide, something Republicans are calling more of the same. 

But Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) says lawmakers on the far right wing of Congress need to drop their opposition to long term infrastructure programs.

"People are hurting. We need to have a focus on infrastructure," she says. Mikulski did a jobs tour in Maryland during the August recess, and says she saw areas in western Maryland where the unemployment rate among construction workers is over 35 percent.

The president also announced a review of 500 government regulations in hopes of spurring job growth, but Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) calls that a political jab at the GOP. 

"He was joking about, 'all we wanted to do was cut spending and reduce regulations,'" Bartlett says. "If we don't reduce regulations, businesses are not going to come here."

The president is calling for swift passage of his jobs plan, but if the region's lawmakers are any indicator, he's facing an uphill battle with Congress. 

 

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