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With no money to spend, lawmakers talking about job creation aren't likely to accomplish anything unless a plan is swept into the deficit talks dominating Capitol Hill.
Last month's uptick in the unemployment rate had Senate Democrats looking to restart their efforts to launch a new jobs agenda while redoubling their attempts to blame Republicans as obstructionists who don't care about the unemployed.
"I guess their goal is, 'Let's make things as bad as we can, and hopefully the American people won't see through it, and maybe we'll get somebody elected to replace President [Barack] Obama,'" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday on the Senate floor. The Nevada Democrat complained Senate Republicans were blocking modest small-business and economic development reauthorization bills, while accusing House Republicans of letting pension reform and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization languish.
But none of those bills would dramatically affect the unemployment rate in the short term, and with the debt limit deadline looming, big new spending plans aren't likely to go anywhere in either chamber.
That leaves tax cuts as the most likely suspect for addressing job growth. The White House has floated the idea of expanding and extending this year's 2 percent stimulus payroll tax deduction, but even that proposal has gotten a tepid response so far.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told a group of liberal activists Friday at the Netroots Nation convention in Minneapolis, it is "very challenging ... [to] get the economy moving on a large scale" when there is a GOP majority in the House.
"This president has put forward a number of initiatives ... that have not been acted on yet ... that are being blocked by Republicans," Pfeiffer said. Among those: an infrastructure bill, a national wireless program, clean energy measures and small-business tax breaks. Obama will keep putting forth proposals that could be presented in one large jobs bill, he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the No. 3 Democrat, on Sunday sought to tie long-term deficit reduction talks to a new jobs agenda that he said Democrats are putting together.
"We should have as a goal, as a guidepost: For every trillion we cut in the deficit, we should seek to create a million jobs in the short term," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And we can do both."
Schumer mentioned infrastructure and tax cuts among the items Democrats are considering. They will discuss the agenda at their lunch today, but the caucus has not yet coalesced behind any one idea.
Democrats contend they are trying to find items to lower the unemployment rate that appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike because those proposals have a better chance of reaching the president's desk.
"They want to get something done," one senior aide said.