Senate Republicans are still seething over Majority Leader Harry Reids (D-Nev.) strong-arm tactics, but Reid and other Democratic leaders say they feel vindicated by their ability to corral enough GOP votes to jump-start debate on their first job-creation measure this year.
Two weeks ago, Republicans howled in protest over Reids decision to shelve a bipartisan jobs measure crafted by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in favor of a trimmed-down bill. But Democrats say Reids maneuver proved that keeping their legislative goals simple will force bipartisanship to materialize.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Reids plan to pursue a series of small, focused job-creation measures was justified by Mondays vote in which five Republicans joined all but one Democrat to advance a bill that is likely to move to final passage today.
I think the lesson there for us is ... we should keep our bills very clear. And this was very clear, Boxer said. We had two items in the bill that dealt with tax breaks for business, for investment and for hiring, and two bills that dealt with the infrastructure of our country, keeping it strong, building it and saving jobs. And so the message was very clear.
Reids win on the jobs bill helped to quell, for now, a debate in the Democratic caucus over whether to pursue bipartisanship or charge forward with pure party priorities.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged: That debate was raging in our caucus. But the fact that five Republicans stepped up and joined us gave us some encouragement to try to work to find moderate Republicans who will join us in passing important issues. If it breaks down again into the endless filibusters and no progress being made, then I think the wing of the caucus thats arguing for contrast and show where we stand and where they disagree is going to prevail.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said, Passing smaller, targeted legislation gives us a better chance of winning, keeps our message clean and it puts Republicans in a corner.
Democrats appear on the cusp of another bipartisan deal to take up a nearly yearlong extension of unemployment benefits and a continuation of tax extenders, among other things. Aides said Tuesday that they believe Republicans are close to agreeing to a longer extension of jobless benefits than the three months included in the Baucus-Grassley measure. The longer extension would assuage liberals who balked at extending business tax cuts for a year and unemployment benefits for only three months.
Reid axed the tax extenders and jobless benefits from the bill he pushed Monday, calling the tax provisions a sop to lobbyists that had little to do with job creation. Of the $85 billion Baucus-Grassley bill, only $15 billion was directed squarely at job creation.
Initially, Democrats and Republicans alike accused Reid of pulling the rug out from under a genuine bipartisan effort. But now many Democrats say they are happy he stuck up for Democratic priorities and resisted attempts to lard the bill with GOP sweeteners.
The leader made a gutsy call and showed we didnt need those things that Grassley and Republicans were asking for on the first jobs bill, another senior Senate Democratic aide said. Republicans are finding it much harder to oppose a targeted approach.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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