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Obama Lays Out Jobs Plan, Decries Regulatory Race To The Bottom

President Obama tonight laid out a $450 billion job creation plan before a joint session of Congress, challenging lawmakers to repeatedly to “pass this jobs bill.” “Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we’ll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country,” he said.

Obama called for a reduction in the payroll tax, investments in infrastructure, a plan to modernize up to 35,000 schools, as well as tax breaks for new hires and a plan to reform the corporate tax code that currently “stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington.” Obama emphasized that many of these ideas have, in the past, garnered bipartisan support and he threw in some Republican favorites, such as approving pending free trade agreements.

However, despite drawing cheers from the Republicans in the crowd when he mentioned eliminating or streamlining regulations, Obama said that he would not use the economic crisis as an excuse to engage in a regulatory race to the bottom:

But what we can’t do — what I won’t do — is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.

Earlier this week, the administration had to beat back reports that it was considering a moratorium on federal regulations.

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The administration estimates that the plan will add one to two percentage points to GDP growth next year. The question, of course, is whether the package — which is bigger than originally reported — has any chance of making its way through the Republican-controlled House. Obama proposed paying for the package with a panoply of measures already rejected by the GOP majority, including removing tax subsidies for big oil companies.