Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to call a vote on the presidents jobs plan and asked Republicans and Democrats to help him change the bill to their liking.
As Reid indicated, Obama’s plan will need tweaks to get the votes, even though Democrats are broadly in favor of the increased infrastructure spending and middle-class tax breaks included in the proposal.
However, Democrats from oil- producing states, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), oppose cutting tax breaks for oil companies, which is part of the president’s proposed package to pay for his plan. Other Democrats — including incumbent Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.), two top targets for the GOP in 2012 — aren’t keen on voting for a tax increase of any kind.
While Republicans could theoretically force a vote to show that there is bipartisan opposition, Democrats could counterpunch by asking where the GOP alternative is.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated Monday that Republicans believe they can support and reject the president at the same time. The Virginia Republican told reporters that he will push for consideration of a series of proposals that are included in Obama’s package, such as a 3 percent withholding provision for government contractors and approval of the three free-trade agreements that are pending. “The all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable, and I think from a purely practical standpoint, the president has some whipping to do on his own side of the aisle,” Cantor said.
Unlike Cantor, however, Reid is somewhat boxed in by the White House’s desire to have a vote on a large proposal dedicated to creating jobs. If the president’s bill ultimately comes up short in the Senate, Democrats want to make sure it gets the highest number of votes they can muster and then look to the super committee to incorporate as much of the plan as possible.
Another possibility would be for Democrats to move smaller chunks of the president’s bill — such as the expansion of the payroll tax cut — under the theory that it would be harder for Republicans to oppose, but that option would only happen if Democrats have exhausted other strategies.
Taking care of the oil-state Democrats may be the easy part — cutting subsidies for oil companies is a relatively small piece of the overall pie — but finding anything close to $447 billion in offsets that can get a filibuster-proof 60 votes may be an insurmountable hurdle outside of the super committee.
There are a few in the GOP, including Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), the top Democratic target in 2012, who have expressed some interest in the jobs package. But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has dismissed it as another big stimulus spending bill paid for by higher taxes.
With time slipping, the pressure is already shifting to the super committee to include hunks of the jobs bill as part of its overall package. The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction may be the best bet for enacting any significant package because the costs would be hidden inside a much larger package of deficit reduction. And stimulus spending could be a big carrot for the White House and Congressional Democrats in lieu of net tax increases.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the legislative wrangling last week.