By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republicans, having rejected President Barack Obama's jobs bill, offered a sweeping and largely repackaged plan of their own on Thursday.
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.
(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Deborah Charles and Jackie Frank)