WRAPUP 2-Obama, Republicans find common ground on jobs

* Obama plans “incremental steps” on job creation

* New political realities prompt change of direction

* Democrats, Republicans both eye November elections
(Adds Obama comments)

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. President Barack Obama
found common ground with Republicans on Tuesday over his top
priorities of job creation and deficit reduction but drew a
rebuke on healthcare reform.

A Democrat, Obama has been promoting a retooled strategy
since an election in Massachusetts last month deprived his
party of a “super majority” in the U.S. Senate and forced him
to work more closely with rival Republicans.

After a roughly 90-minute White House meeting with
congressional leaders from both parties, Obama indicated he
would accept “incremental steps” rather than more sweeping
measures to create jobs, his top domestic priority.
[ID:nN09247366]

“(It’s) realistic for us to get a package moving quickly
that may not include all of the things I think need to be
done,” Obama said during an impromptu news conference.

“It may be that that first package builds some trust and
confidence that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill can
work together,” he said.

Eyeing November elections that could further change the
balance of power in the Democratic-led Congress, the president
sought to engage the opposition on shared priorities while
accusing them of sometimes putting politics ahead of policy.

Republican leaders said after the meeting they saw a basis
for support from both parties on expanding trade, nuclear power
and offshore drilling — all to help create jobs.

“These are areas where I think there could be pretty broad
bipartisan support to go forward on a collaborative basis,”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.

But Republican leaders gave no ground on healthcare, saying
broad Democratic-backed legislation in its current form should
be scrapped.

Obama’s first year in office was characterized by sweeping
— not incremental — proposals on healthcare, climate change
and financial reform all still pending in Congress. Though
improving, the economy is still a top concern for U.S. voters.

The economy grew by a brisk 5.7 percent year-on-year in the
fourth quarter of 2009 and unemployment dipped to 9.7 percent
in January. But the jobless rate remains historically high and
the White House wants additional stimulus on top of a $787
billion emergency spending package Obama signed last year.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

Obama said the business world was anxious for certainty in
policy areas such as financial reform and healthcare.

“The sooner the business community has a sense that we’ve
got our act together here in Washington and can move forward on
big, serious issues in a substantive way without a lot of
posturing and partisan wrangling, I think the better off the
entire country is going to be,” he said.

Obama repeated that he was willing to listen to Republican
ideas on healthcare but rejected calls for a complete
overhaul.

He said an energy package should include a mix of measures
to boost nuclear, oil and gas production — areas that appeal
to Republicans — along with new technology to boost renewable
fuels such as wind and solar.

On jobs, Obama said both parties could agree to eliminate
capital gains taxes for small businesses. He said he hoped all
would support a way to get more capital to community banks
lending to small businesses.

The House of Representatives passed a $155 billion jobs
bill in December while the Senate has yet to act.

Senate Democratic leaders unveiled a set of job-creating
ideas last week and said they would solicit Republican input
before moving ahead with legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped to introduce a bill
on Monday and pass it by the end of the week, but he has been
delayed by snowstorms that have kept many lawmakers from
getting to work.

A jobs bill that could go through the Senate would extend
soon-to-expire jobless payments, healthcare subsidies for the
unemployed and highway-funding programs, according to the text
of the bill obtained by Reuters. [ID:nN09101879]

“Frankly, it is not ready yet,” McConnell, the Senate
Republican leader, said, referring to a jobs bill. “Most of my
members have not seen it yet. We’re certainly open to it and
… there is a chance we can move this forward on a bipartisan
basis.”

In a potential sign of conciliation, House Republican
leader John Boehner said the party was mulling appointing
members to Obama’s proposed bipartisan deficit commission.

Obama plans to issue an executive order to set up the
commission to study options on spending and taxes after
lawmakers failed to create a congressional panel on the issue.

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(Additional reporting by Alister Bull, Ross Colvin, Steve
Holland, Matt Spetalnick and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Howard
Goller)

WRAPUP 2-Obama, Republicans find common ground on jobs