Their “Jobs Through Growth Act” features a fresh call for tax reform and cuts as well as a number of components previously proposed, but stalled in the Democratic-led Senate.They include steps to: require a balanced budget; repeal Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system; lift prohibitions on offshore energy exploration and promote U.S. trade.”This is a pro-growth proposal to create the environment for jobs that stands in contrast to the short-term sweetener approach of the Obama administration, an approach that simply hasn’t worked,” Senator Rob Portman, a chief sponsor of the measure, told a news conference.Republicans unveiled their measure after complaints by Obama that they haven’t offered a jobs-creation plan.”We just thought it was time to put this all into a package,” said Senator John McCain, another sponsor. “Part of it is in response to the president saying we don’t have a proposal.”McCain said all but a few of the Senate’s 47 Republicans had embraced the measure, whose third and final chief sponsor is Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite.But Democratic Senator Charles Schumer called the Republican plan, “a political fig leaf that would likely add to the deficit while doing nothing to create jobs.”The bill was unveiled two days after Republicans used a procedural move in the Senate to block Obama’s $447 billion jobs package.Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Obama touted the new strategy he and Senate Democrats have crafted to bring up parts of his bill for individual votes, likely beginning next month.”We’re going to say, let’s have a vote on putting teachers back in the classroom,” said Obama, whose re-election next year may hinge on how much he can revive the sagging economy and boost the jobless rate that has been stuck above 9 percent since May.”Let’s have a vote on rebuilding our infrastructure.”If Republicans vote no, Obama said, they will have to explain their actions to the American people ahead of next year’s elections.A new Wall Street-NBC poll shows that the public, by a 2-to-1 margin, backs Obama’s plan to create jobs through a mixture of stimulus spending and tax cuts. It would be financed by a 5.7 percent surtax on millionaires.Obama called House Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, on Thursday to congratulate him for helping pass three free trade bills expected to help create jobs.During the call, Boehner office said, the speaker rejected Obama’s comment that Republicans had not offered a jobs creation plan, noting that House Republicans offered one in May.In fact, the House has passed 11 bills to ease regulations on business and make it easier to drill for oil and gas. None have come up for a vote in the Senate.Democrats have painted Republicans as obstructionists who care more about defeating Obama than boosting the economy.Republicans say the president would rather campaign on the issue of jobs than find a bipartisan solution.
* Rebels in ruling party oppose austerity measuresBy Yiorgos Karahalis and Renee MaltezouATHENS, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Greek protesters halted public transport in Athens on Thursday and moved to disrupt collection of an unpopular new property tax in a growing wave of opposition to harsh new austerity measures demanded by international lenders.With the beleaguered Socialist government of Prime Minister George Papandreou fighting to push new cuts through parliament, protests have strengthened ahead of a planned general strike on Oct. 19 which is expected to shut down much of the country.On Thursday, protesters occupied the printing offices of Greek power utility PPC < DEHr.AT >, in a bid to stop the production of electricity bills which will be used to collect the tax on homes and other property.”We came here because we cannot allow electricity to be cut to hundreds of thousands of poor citizens, because this is what will happen with the law this government voted,” Nikos Fotopoulos, president of GENOP-DEH union, told Skai television.Elsewhere, the ancient Acropolis, Greece’s most famous monument, was closed to tourists for a second day as workers in the archaeological service barred the entrance and Athens was hit by strikes by garbage collectors and hospital workers.Thousands of bus drivers and metro staff marched on parliament, angry at steep pay cuts and the growing threat of redundancy in the traditionally protected public sector but the protests went beyond the mass of lower paid workers.Lawyers refused to appear in court, doctors were due to rally outside the health ministry, while a group of patients suffering from kidney cancer rallied outside the finance ministry, which was occupied by striking officials.The protests come as euro zone leaders scramble to put together a new rescue plan to stave off bankruptcy and stop the crisis spreading out of control with growing expectations that banks will have to take steeper losses on their bond holdings.International lenders are demanding further painful reforms but unions say the belt-tightening hurts only the poor and middle-class and will drag Greece’s stricken economy further into recession.”We are fully aware that this is very tough,” the European Commission chief inspector for Greece, Matthias Mors, told the daily Kathimerini in an interview.”But I would say that we are at a critical moment, where Greece has to convince the international community and the other euro area members that it is willing and able to reach the objectives that it has committed itself to,” he said.RECESSIONAnalysts say Papandreou’s government, trailing in opinion polls, will be able to push through parliament a package of new austerity measures in time for a European Union summit on Oct. 23. But discontent is growing and the government is straining to keep even its own deputies in line.”I have no intention of voting against the bill, but no one can stop me criticising it,” said Leonidas Grigorakos, a deputy in the ruling PASOK party. “What is taking place has no precedent, society is in turmoil, there is huge insecurity. We politicians must say where the country is heading.”Greece, trapped in deep recession and fighting to control a public debt expected to reach 162 percent of gross domestic product this year, has struggled to get on top of a crisis which many economists now predict will end in default.Inspectors from the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank “troika” ended a review of Greece’s progress on a first, 110-billion-euro bailout plan on Tuesday.They gave the green light for the euro zone and the IMF to release an 8-billion euro aid tranche Greece needs to keep paying its bills past November but said Athens needed to take more determined action on reform in addition to more cuts.But the bitter opposition aroused has squeezed the government hard and made it much more difficult to implement what amount to the deepest and most painful cuts in Greece’s postwar history.The fact that much of the impact of the cuts will fall on public servants has complicated implementation of the plan as workers likely to be affected themselves resist cooperating.Tax officials are due to go on strike next week while Thursday’s occupation of the PCC printing site could hit collection of a property tax that will hurt many ordinary people in a country with a high level of home ownership.PPC’s management said the bills would be printed anyway, in another venue and at a greater cost but protesters said they would continue their protest.