One week after President Barack Obama urged members of Congress to quickly pass his $447 billion American Jobs Act, the bill has yet to be brought to the House floor for a vote—and representatives from the Chattanooga area said they aren't very impressed.
According to the White House, Obama's proposal would provide Tennessee with $1.8 billion in federal funds and create 23,600 jobs. But the numbers don't add up for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who said he left Obama's speech feeling "very disappointed."
"I was hopeful that the president would come to us with a different course of direction, specifically trying to solve these issues with a private sector approach as opposed to a public sector approach," Fleischmann said during a phone interview. "It's the same thing he's had since day one of his administration, and that's the worst thing we can do right now."
As an alternative, Fleischmann suggested a short-term waiver on capital gains taxes, as well as a reform of the nation's energy policy.
"I wish the administration would step back, see where our economy is, and come up with some fresh ideas," Fleischmann said. "We can't continue with the failed policies of the past."
Rep. Scott DesJarlais called the bill "stimulus two," and said he wasn't convinced Obama's offer of extending payroll tax cuts would be in the best interests of his constituents—despite the president's claim it would put an average of $1,270 back in the pockets of working Tennesseans.
"Payroll tax cuts sound good, until you see that he's cutting social security payroll tax cuts," DesJarlais said during a phone interview. "I'm usually for cutting taxes, but he's cutting the wrong taxes."
Fleischmann said he was still studying the potential effects payroll tax cuts on social security, saying he was "certainly open" to considering the proposition but cognizant of his commitment to keep social security solvent. The congressman also suggested finding provisions within the bill that both sides could agree on, such as tax credits for unemployed and wounded veterans.
"Those are a step in the right direction, but the major thrust of the bill is more and more government," he said.
The responses from local lawmakers were nothing but pure politics, Brandon Puttbrese, communications Director for the Tennessee Democratic Party, said.
"If you dissect the American Jobs Act point after point, it is loaded with things both Republicans and Democrats support and have fought for," Puttbrese said. "How a Republican who walks around and complains about taxes all day long who cannot get behind a tax cut for businesses is absolutely beyond me. It's time for Fleischmann and DesJarlais to do their jobs, all we've been getting is lip service."