Manuel Balce Ceneta, File, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama asked businesses for advice on creating jobs, he might have anticipated that more than 200 responses would quickly be headed his way courtesy of Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican who once called him corrupt.
A month before Obama reached out to businesses, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent 171 letters to various businesses and their trade associations. He asked for help in "identifying existing and proposed regulations that have negatively impacted job growth."
This Thursday, Issa is giving business representatives an opportunity at a hearing by his committee to vent their frustration with government requirements issued by unelected bureaucrats. He wants Obama to include their responses in a review of government regulations the president ordered last month in the administration's effort to find rules that cost Americans jobs.
Issa and Obama don't have to look far. Last month, The Associated Press reported that the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation estimates the administration's proposal for protecting streams from coal mining would strip away about 7,000 of the industry's nearly 81,000 jobs.
Large and small businesses and trade associations told Issa, R-Calif., that they want to change or eliminate more than of 100 regulations — more than half related to the environment and others governing financial rules, the workplace and transportation.
The president's initiative opened the door for Issa to walk through, as Obama looks to improve a frayed relationship with business before the 2012 election. In addition to the regulatory review, the president enlisted the help of two powerhouse executives to advise him on job creation and competitiveness: AOL co-founder Steve Case and General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt.
Obama on Monday defended government regulations in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, even as he promised to eliminate those that are too burdensome.
Politically, it would appear that Issa and Obama are on the same page for the moment, even though the congressman once called him "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." Issa later clarified the comment, saying he was referring to wasteful spending, not criminal corruption.
Issa said Monday, "The president has recognized the value in examining the regulatory barriers impeding private sector job creation." In addition to his letters, Issa has launched a new website, www.americanjobcreators.com , that allows businesses to describe their problems with government regulations.
But with both parties looking toward the 2012 election, the traditional political divisions could emerge when it's time to act on the responses. Republicans want Obama to throw his EPA secretary, Lisa Jackson, under the bus as she tries to set strict air pollution standards including regulating greenhouse gases. Democrats passed a bill to do the same thing two years ago when they controlled the House, but the measure never got a vote in the Senate.
Issa says he's just trying to help the administration get a more comprehensive view of the impact of its regulatory proposals, and is not making judgments on the proposals themselves.
"As the Obama administration begins the process of complying with the president's directive, we are putting forward the other half of the conversation - input directly from job creators," he said. "This effort is meant to complement what the president has ordered and should be a starting point for the broader discussion that will unfold about the regulatory barriers to job creation."
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, isn't waiting for a regulatory review. Upton has already drafted legislation that would require a two-year delay of EPA's plan to make power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming..
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