CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday offered congressional Republicans 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 the idea.
The announcement and quick rejection underscored how elusive common ground is between the Democrat 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.
President Barack Obama speaks to employee Adrienne Thompson at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., Tuesday.
"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, pointed out 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.
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 and calls 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.
Obama also wants lawmakers to pour one-time revenue generated from the tax overhaul into jobs programs, including infrastructure, manufacturing and community colleges.
"If we're going to give businesses a better deal, we're going to give workers a better deal too," the president said.
Republicans have opposed using tax revenue to support more spending. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday that "everything should be negotiated, but certainly I'm not in support of it."
Administration officials said the jobs programs would be paid for with a one-time revenue boost from measures such as changing depreciation rules or having a one-time fee on earnings held overseas. But they wouldn't put a price tag on the revenue total or the corporate tax overhaul at large.
When Obama first unveiled his corporate tax plan last year, congressional Republicans called for even deeper cuts for the business world. His campaign rival, Mitt Romney, wanted a 25 percent corporate tax rate.