WASHINGTON -- If the White House is to win the debate over President Barack Obama's jobs bill, its victory won't be measured in congressional vote tallies, but rather in terms of the political discomfort inflicted on the opposition.
No one expects the American Jobs Act to pass the Senate when it comes up for a vote next week. Even if the bill miraculously receives the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said he won't bring it to the floor of the House of Representatives. And so, the White House and Democratic-allied groups have begun setting their sights on the next phase of the fight over jobs: what happens once the bill fails.
"I'll tell you, if the Republicans take the current position and hold it, that they'll do nothing, I think they'll pay a price for it," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Bloomberg News Friday.
Democrats have been dropping similar hints for days now, with even the president tipping his hand. In a press conference on Thursday, Obama conspicuously noted, "in Maine, there is a bridge that is in such bad shape that pieces of it were literally falling off the other day." Maine doesn't frequently make its way into the president's talking points, but with two of the Senate's most moderate Republicans hailing from there, it takes on additional import.
Outside Democratic groups tell The Huffington Post that the administration plans to deploy a two-pronged strategy in the days ahead. The first and most immediate task is to ensure that as few Senate Democrats as possible defect when the jobs act comes to a vote. Already, union groups have been petitioning Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who generally votes with Democrats, to back the bill. Senate leadership, meanwhile, put aside a pay-for provision that would have closed tax breaks for oil and gas companies in order to win the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). And Obama's reelection campaign launched the "Tweet for Jobs" movement this week, with the president, Democratic members of Congress, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others urging voters to contact their members of Congress and push them to support the American Jobs Act.
The more critical task, however, will comes once the vote has concluded. If lawmakers who oppose the president's jobs bill in its current form pay no political price for doing so, then there will be little incentive for them to lend their support when the bill is stripped down into individual parts.
A DNC official said the committee will continue to run a series of television and radio advertisements in swing states and districts.
"Democrats are going to take the jobs act directly to the American people so they can ask the Republicans in Congress and the Republican candidates for president why they refuse to support a plan that provides real economic growth right now," said DNC National Press Secretary Melanie Roussell. "Instead of playing politics with economic plans that economists say won’t make a dent in the problem, we want the American people to tell the Republicans to pass this bill."
A spokesperson for the Obama-allied Americans United for Change said the group and others were planning in-state demonstrations not just in targeted Senate races "but across the country," focusing on schools and bridges that could use government assistance. A spokesman for the AFL-CIO, meanwhile, noted that the labor federation will continue an action campaign, America Wants to Work, that incorporates the jobs bill.
As for the message Democrats will push, that depends on the Senate vote. But over recent weeks it's become clear that party leadership is done dealing with subtleties. During a Christian Science Monitor-hosted breakfast several weeks ago, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, plainly accused GOP leadership of trying to submarine Obama's jobs bill so that they could maintain control of the House and retake control of the Senate and the White House in the 2012 election.
“They accomplish that one way and one way only. And that is to stop the jobs recovery, to put a halt to the jobs recovery and if possible to reverse the jobs recovery," he said.
In an interview with The Huffington Post shortly thereafter, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said she agreed with O'Malley.
"I couldn't not agree with him more," she said. "I think that the Republicans are willing to leave the economy in bad shape for 14 months, do nothing to try and improve it, not work with the president so as not to give him a win, because they only care about one job -- President Obama's."
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