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The Next Obstacle For The American Jobs Act: Congressional Democrats

Jobs Act

First Posted: 09/15/11 04:55 PM ET Updated: 11/15/11 05:12 AM ET

Yesterday, when I discussed the path forward for the American Jobs Act, it seemed clear to me that President Barack Obama was working to create an environment in which the GOP leadership, seeing that job creation was in their best interests, might become amenable to bargaining, as opposed to obstruction. A pretty dicey gamble, considering how well obstruction has worked out for the GOP electorally! Of course, what I should have considered is the first major obstacle the American Jobs Act would face would actually come in the form of intra-caucus undermining from the Democrats themselves. Here's Jennifer Steinhauer, reporting for The New York Times:

President Obama anticipated Republican resistance to his jobs program, but he is now meeting increasing pushback from his own party. Many Congressional Democrats, smarting from the fallout over the 2009 stimulus bill, say there is little chance they will be able to support the bill as a single entity, citing an array of elements they cannot abide.

Kevin Drum ably distills all the static that the Democratic caucus is giving the Jobs Act. At least one outspoken Democrat, Rep. Peter DiFazio (D-Ore.), is adamantly opposed to more tax cutting, but the lion's share of the undermining comes in the form of the Blue Dogging that I should have anticipated. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) is wary of "big pieces of legislation." Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) does what she does best: shielding her ultra-profitable oil industry donors from sacrifice. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) beat the drum for austerity -- according to Shuler, "The most important thing is to get our fiscal house in order." This runs counter to the desires of the American people, who seek relief from the unemployment crisis. (In the most recent CNN poll, for example, respondents dramatically express their lack of interest in the budget deficit, preferring congressional action on jobs by a 65%-29% margin.)

Says Drum: "Republicans must be laughing their asses off right now. For a brief moment it looked as if maybe, just maybe, Obama had put them in a tough spot: either support a jobs bill their base hated or else look like mindless obstructionists on the single issue most important to the American public. But now? All they have to do is lay low and let Democrats do the dirty work of undermining the bill for them. It's a pretty sweet deal."

Indeed, it is. And one of the sources of humor for Republicans probably stems from the fact that people like Shuler, who love going on the ol' deficit peacock strut, is seemingly ignorant of the fact that the President "specifically said that in order to pay for his jobs proposals, Congress should increase the amount of deficit reduction that is mandated by the recently passed Budget Control Act."

Pushing back against the notion that some members of the Democratic caucus might step up to become the brilliant ally of their own gravediggers, however, is Nancy Pelosi. As Brian Beutler reports:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday said Democrats overwhelmingly support President Obama's jobs bill, despite opposition from a handful of loud party conservatives.

"Let me just say that what you're suggesting is anecdotal. ... the plural of anecdote is not data," Pelosi said in response to TPM's question at her weekly Capitol press conference. "Our caucus is very unified in support of the American Jobs Act and the fact that it is paid for. It may differ with some provisions within it, or the pay-fors, but they do not differ in the fact that we must get behind it."

And behind it they may all eventually get. For the time being, we'll see how much mileage congressional Republicans get out being able to say, "The American Jobs Act doesn't even have the full backing of the President's party."

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