WALTHAM — Fresh off his vote against the Obama administration’s $450 billion jobs plan, Republican Senator Scott Brown told local small business owners yesterday that both Democrat and Republican efforts to fix the ailing US economy are doomed.
Speaking to the Smaller Business Association of New England, Brown said the nation is in the throes of a financial emergency, yet is hobbled by a political obstructionism that he called “disgusting.’’
“The thing that’s frustrating to me is that there’s no Democrat bill that’s going to pass, folks. There’s no Republican bill, either,’’ he said before 300 businesspeople. “Let’s stop playing games.’’
After he voted against the Obama plan last week, Brown issued a statement accusing Democrats of “partisan posturing in the middle of a jobs emergency’’ and calling the president’s bill “a charade.’’
But yesterday he softened his rhetoric, distancing himself from “ideologues’’ who he blamed for causing the political uncertainty that has helped roil the US economy and stunt job growth. He also said that he agreed with portions of both Democrat and Republican plans to fix the ailing economy.
Specifically, he said he supported President Obama’s payroll tax cut for employers and employees, a tax credit for hiring veterans, and ending the 3 percent withholding tax charged to businesses that receive federal contracts.
Of the proposal from his own party members, Brown said he supported the measure to offer one-time tax incentives to companies under some conditions, including if they bring jobs back to the United States. An aide to the senator said Brown has argued for such bipartisan compromises on the Senate floor and in letters to Republican leaders.
Brown repeatedly promoted his efforts to buck hard-line tactics yesterday, noting that he is trying to create a more conciliatory climate by working with Democrats on what he described as a jobs crisis. He recounted efforts to bridge the partisan divide by joining Democratic Senator John F. Kerry on a 60-mile charity bike ride where the two talked about how they could “bring the Senate together,’’ he said, and he added he has taken steps to develop a working relationship with arch-liberal Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
Brown said consensus-building is especially important for Massachusetts as a 12-member bipartisan Congressional subcommittee undertakes efforts to hammer out billions in budget reductions by winter. If the committee is unable to reach agreement, a series of automatic spending cuts could go into effect, including reductions in defense and research funding. Such funding is key to Massachusetts, which receives a disproportionately large share of those federal dollars, he said.
Many in attendance yesterday were self-described independent voters who were weighing Brown’s words carefully. He is up for reelection next year and among the Democrats vying to challenge him is Harvard professor and former Obama adviser Elizabeth Warren. Brown did not refer to any of his challengers yesterday and answered just two questions from the audience. To one about what he could do to free businesses from excessive federal regulation, he listed numerous examples of how environmental and health agencies hurt business growth, but offered nothing concrete.
Edward Ostrowski, chief executive of Goldstar Advisory, a Hingham firm that advises small businesses, said he felt encouraged by Brown’s criticism of government regulation and his push for compromise. He said he is looking for a leader who is unhappy with the Washington status quo and wants to change it.
But Ostrowski stopped short of an endorsement, saying he wanted to wait and see how events unfold in Washington in the next several months.
“If I still feel confident in his ability to create jobs around election time, I’ll be for him,’’ Ostrowski said.
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at email@example.com.