WASHINGTON — Even before President Barack Obama gives his speech Thursday night with a plan to spur new American jobs, the positions of some of Louisiana’s congressional delegation show that he is going to have yet another battle to get it through Congress.
Louisiana House Republicans contend that the key plank to creating jobs is to reduce government regulation, particularly from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over businesses.
“He hasn’t been talking about that, he’s been talking about jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman. “He has to talk about relaxing some of these rules.”
Republicans control the House while Democrats hold the Senate.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., acknowledges that regulatory reform should be an issue but not the sole matter, she said.
Passing a public works program to improve the nation’s infrastructure, such as highways and roads, needs to be a part of the equation, she said.
“Yes, regulatory reform can be part of the package and I’ve supported efforts for regulatory reform but again, it’s not the only thing that is necessary to create and sustain jobs in this country,” Landrieu said.
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans and the only other Democrat in Louisiana’s delegation didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
Louisiana Republicans point to Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan as evidence that the administration’s past effort to create more jobs has failed.
“I don’t want an instant replay of the first two years of President Obama’s job plans that failed the American people and has given us over 9 percent unemployment and millions of lost jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie.
Landrieu, however, praised Obama’s successes in saving the auto industry, bolstering Wall Street and aiding in developing small businesses.
“Unfortunately, some members of the Republican Party have wanted to delay, distract and turn the attention to other issues,” Landrieu said.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., released a statement Wednesday saying he will be watching the New Orleans Saints football game from his home in Metairie. He said Obama’s speech would be political and not address substantive solutions.
Louisiana has fared better with jobs than the rest of the country, which is seeing 9.1 percent unemployment. The jobless rate in Louisiana stands at 7.6 percent due to the state’s ability to attract new companies, such as Nucor, and retain existing ones, said Curt Eysink, director of the state’s Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Louisiana has created 40,000 direct and indirect jobs, Eysink said. Eysink agrees that the Obama administration needs to relax federal regulations
“What we need is the federal government to get out of the way of Louisiana businesses,” Eysink said. “We need government to allow businesses to grow.”
Obama last week directed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to abandon plans to tighten standards on ozone pollution, which industry leaders have called for. But U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, called it a “baby step.”
“I applaud it,” Fleming said. “I think it’s too little too late.”
Louisiana representatives specifically point to jobs in the energy sector as a way to boost employment. They continue to criticize the administration’s five-month moratorium last year and slow permitting process since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
“Let’s create some jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette. “This will create jobs.”
Boustany sits on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the nation’s tax laws. In addition to expanding energy, Boustany wants to see a reform of the tax code and the expansion of trade pacts.
Obama is expected to call for tax credits for businesses, which Boustany said will not be enough for small business employers. Boustany expects Obama to call for what he is calling “stimulus lite.
“They’re not going to hire just to get a tax credit,” Boustany said of the small businesses. “That doesn’t create the kind of certainty a small business person needs to hire new workers.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, expects Obama to call for more spending that will increase the federal deficit, he said.
“I hope I’m disproved, Cassidy said.
Cassidy joined in calling for the administration to latch on to creating jobs in burgeoning industries, such as energy and ports.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, has also called for Obama to increase jobs in the energy sector. Landry has met constituents struggling with employment, he said.
“People who are employed seem to be hanging onto their jobs but people who are first-time workers or who have been laid off in the last 24 months are finding it harder to get jobs,” Landry said.