The pacts are snagged over renewing expanded aid and job training for workers who lost their jobs because of foreign competition. That aid is a core demand of Democrats who are unenthusiastic about the trade deals. While Republicans have promised to allow votes on the trade assistance, they haven't guaranteed it would pass.
Still, with both Obama and Republicans supporting the trade deals, they probably will win Senate and House ratification by year's end.
Cantor and other House Republicans also support initiatives aimed at small businesses. One would extend past its scheduled January expiration a tax break that allows companies to treat the cost of new equipment as a fully deductible business expense instead of an asset whose value declines with age.
They may be sympathetic to Obama's initiatives to award tax credits to companies that hire veterans or the long-term unemployed.
"We are always for lowering taxes, incentivizing the growth of business," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. "We're going to be looking for opportunities to cut taxes to stimulate the growth of small business and jobs creation."
Leaders and members of both parties returned to Washington last week after a monthlong recess with a sense that voters are fed up with the nonstop fighting in the capital. The conciliatory tone was noticeable from the start, and then typified by muted reactions to Obama's speech.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama's proposals "merit consideration."
"We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well," Boehner said. "It's my hope that we can work together."
But good intentions along don't enact laws. While the stagnant economy and restless voters are giving lawmakers lots of incentive to work together or risk voter wrath, there's no sword hanging over them if they don't act.
Last year's compromise on taxes and unemployment insurance, by contrast, was driven chiefly by the need to extend the Bush-era tax cuts that were scheduled to expire. That made the Republicans more flexible on extending jobless benefits after fighting Democrats for months over whether they should have been "paid for" with offsetting spending cuts.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Andrew Taylor has covered Congress since 1990.
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