WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama pushed Congress again on Monday to bring his American Jobs Act to a vote, promising to "put as much pressure" as he could on lawmakers to act with haste. But with growing recalcitrance among Republicans, resistance among some Democrats and an election season heating up, the prospects for quick action look increasingly slim.
The Democratic leadership is now taking more seriously the possibility that if components of the jobs plan are to be enacted, they'll have to be attached to the recommendations produced by the congressional super committee in charge of finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.
On Monday, the president offered his customary insistence about passing his plan -- which includes major tax cuts to encourage hiring, insurance for the unemployed, and money for infrastructure and school repair -- in an expedient manner.
"It's been several weeks now since I sent up the American Jobs Act, and as I've been saying on the road, I want it back. I'm ready to sign it," he said. "My expectation is, now that we're in the month of October, that we'll schedule a vote before the end of this month. I'll be talking to Senator Reid, [Senator] McConnell, as well as Speaker Boehner and [Representative] Nancy Pelosi, and insisting that we have a vote on this bill."
In a background briefing with reporters before Obama spoke, senior administration officials laid out the case that legislative delay does more damage to the Republicans responsible for holding up the jobs bill than to the bill's primary booster. A Fox News Poll released shortly thereafter appeared to underscore their premise. While 26 percent of respondents thought Obama had helped the economy and 45 percent thought he had hurt it, only 15 percent thought congressional Republicans had helped and 50 percent thought they had hurt the economy.
Still, legislative processes are rarely dictated by polling pressures. And while the president was publicly demanding a vote sometime in October, expectations have been adjusted a touch in private.
Those same senior administration officials said that the White House has been in talks with members of the super committee about both job creation legislation and their work in general. While the officials wouldn't go too far into specifics, they noted that this past summer the president and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had discussed including infrastructure spending, payroll tax cut relief and the extension of unemployment insurance in their proposed "grand bargain."
Obama has already asked the committee to find budget cuts to help cover the $447 billion cost of his jobs package. If he were to push the committee to include the jobs act itself as part of its recommendations, that would up the ante significantly more.
On the one hand, the jobs plan would be granted the same sort of procedural advantages (it can be neither filibustered nor amended) that the super committee's debt and deficit reduction suggestions will receive. On the other, the idea could potentially alienate the committee's six GOP members, who don't want to be seen as providing the critical votes for the president's chief jobs proposal. Seven of the 12 committee members must back the deficit recommendations before they can be sent to Congress.
A senior Democratic aide told The Huffington Post that the party is looking to find a "balanced approach to deficit reduction" that includes "efforts at job creation, most definitely including the president's" jobs plan.
But a top Democratic operative who has been privy to debt and deficit reduction talks on the Hill said it was hardly a given that Obama's jobs plan will find its way into the super committee's recommendations, let alone receive a regular floor vote. That's not because the provision themselves are disagreeable, but because the measures to cover their cost -- namely, eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy, closing loopholes for corporate jet owners, and taxing subsidies for oil and gas companies -- have no cross-party support.
"To put it in the super committee, you would need to have pay-for provisions as well," the operative noted. "Not only can Republicans and Democrats not agree on those pay-fors; Democrats can't agree on those pay-fors."
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