By Joe Tash
The key to lifting the U.S. economy out of the doldrums and creating jobs is reducing government red tape and allowing the private sector to do what it does best, said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad.
Bilbray, who represents San Diego County's 50th Congressional District, which includes Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla, made the comments in response to President Obama's State of the Union address delivered on Jan. 27.
Among the initiatives Obama proposed in his speech were a second jobs bill, using $30 billion repaid by Wall Street banks to stimulate lending by community banks to small businesses, and a new tax credit for small businesses that hire workers or raise the wages of current employees.
But Bilbray said the federal government continues to "over-regulate and strangle" private industry with regulation. He cited environmental regulations in California, Florida and elsewhere that hamper development of job-producing projects, such as power plants and high-speed rail lines.
"He's got to remember, Washington doesn't create jobs," said Bilbray.
As for Obama's proposal to put $30 billion repaid by banks that received federal bailout funds back into loan-stimulation programs for community banks, Bilbray said it was promised that repaid funds would be used to pay down the federal debt.
"Now he's talking about breaking that promise," said Bilbray. "Has Washington been successful in getting banks to give loans in the last year? The answer is no. What makes anyone think it will be different (under the new proposal)?"
Bilbray gave kudos to the president for talking about achieving energy independence by building a new generation of "safe, clean" nuclear power plants, and exploring offshore oil and gas deposits.
"He was brave enough to say that," said Bilbray.
"I favor the local choice. I know we won't have (offshore drilling) in San Diego.
"It's not just the environment; we won't have it in San Diego because of military operations," he said.
However, he said, local communities in California and other states should be able to consider such options as offshore drilling and nuclear power.
Closer to home, he said the construction of a third power generation unit at the San Onofre nuclear power plant would satisfy local power needs in an environmentally responsible manner.
According to Bilbray, Obama attempted to justify his "mistake" of a health care bill requiring Americans to purchase health insurance. (The bill is still pending in Congress, but is in jeopardy due to the recent loss of a Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts.)
The Republican said colleagues in his own party must be willing to prohibit insurance companies from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and dropping people who get sick. Democrats must be willing to take on trial lawyers and place limits on medical malpractice litigation.
"Tort reform is a major savings we can do that will not affect quality at all," Bilbray said.
One positive development that could allow Republicans and Democrats to reach common ground on important issues, said Bilbray, was Obama's acceptance of an invitation to speak at a retreat for Republican lawmakers from both houses of Congress. The president did in fact attend the retreat, which took place last Friday in Baltimore.