WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama may get his wish for a quick Senate vote on his $447 billion jobs bill, but it's not going to look exactly as he expected.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday he is open to changing the way the package is paid for to win more Democratic votes. Several Democrats have objected to Obama's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy and impose a new tax on health benefits.
"There's a wide range of things that we're looking at," Reid told reporters, emphasizing that "the majority" of Democratic senators are already behind the bill.
But in a calculated move designed to show that the bill currently lacks full Democratic support, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took steps to bring the bill immediately to a vote. He cited Obama's call on Congress to take action on the bill "right away," and suggested that he, too, would like to do just that.
"I've noticed a number of Democrats have expressed their concerns with parts of it," McConnell told reporters. "But what the president has asked for is not parts of it, but the whole thing, and he's been critical of Congress for not giving it a vote. So I think we should. I think he's entitled to know where the Senate stands on his proposal."
McConnell proceeded to go to the Senate floor and use a procedural motion to try to bring up the bill as an amendment to an unrelated bill on China currency that is currently being debated. Reid was fast to step in and object, however, saying he would will bring up the jobs package on its own, once the China currency bill is out of the way. But the reality is that Reid needs more time to whip Democrats into supporting the package before it comes up—and to tweak its funding provisions as needed.
"'Right away' is a relative term," Reid said of the urgency in getting to the bill. "What a charade going on here … We now have a proposal that is ridiculous on its face, that is that we vote with no debate on the president's job proposal. This is senseless, it's unfair to bring this up in this form."
The sparring eventually faded into the two party leaders agreeing to have more discussions off the floor about how to proceed. For now, Reid maintains the bill will come up at some point within the current work period.
The Senate scuffle on the matter is largely irrelevant, however, since House Republican leaders have already said they won't bring Obama's bill to the floor for a vote.
"No," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said flatly on Monday, when asked if the entire package will get a vote.
"You know, this all-or-nothing approach is unreasonable," Cantor said of Obama's push to vote on the whole bill as opposed to pieces of it. "There are many issues that I have listed here that we can work together on. So instead of continuing to maintain this sort of campaign posture, let's do something to work together."
He also said "yes" when asked point blank by a reporter if Obama's bill, as a full package, is dead.
Cantor's comments didn't go unnoticed by the president, who slammed the GOP leader in a speech he gave later Tuesday in Dallas.
"Yesterday, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now, he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives," Obama said.
"Well I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn’t believe in. Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?" Obama asked.
"At least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where every Member of Congress stands."
Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring responded in kind by challenging Obama to swallow Republicans' jobs plan without any changes.
"If House Republicans sent our plan for America’s job creators to the President, would he promise not to veto it in its entirety?" Dayspring asked in a statement. "Republicans are trying to work together despite our disagreements - why isn’t the President?"
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