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Democrats banded together before recess to block a GOP effort to cut more than $1 billion in federal programs, but that rare show of unity hasn’t yet translated into support for their own president’s jobs bill.
It seems it’s a lot easier to block a Republican plan than to get the Democrats to rally around President Barack Obama. Even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has repeatedly promised to call a vote on the president’s plan, he has slow-walked Obama’s jobs bill amid fractures within his caucus over how to pay for it.
On Monday, Reid pleaded with Republicans and Democrats alike to help him change the jobs bill to their liking, and he asked them not to filibuster it.
“Members should rally behind the common-sense, bipartisan approach of this legislation,” Reid said on the floor. “I’m happy to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to improve this bill, but I hope the obstructionism Republicans employed the last nine months won’t continue.”
Reid scheduled a vote on the China currency bill for this week — a politically safe measure that has Republican support and that many of his endangered incumbents are eager to vote for — and he indicated Monday that three delayed trade pacts and several appropriations measures would come to the Senate floor before the jobs bill. That may give his caucus more time to coalesce around a floor strategy and would allow Obama more time to try to sell his plan across the nation.
Though the president has been barnstorming the country for the past month with his “pass this bill” mantra, Democratic leaders still need time to not only unify their 53-member caucus, but also to try to pick off Republicans.
“That’s what the next couple of weeks are going to be about,” one senior Democratic aide said. “As important as doing what we can to keep our people happy, we’re going to have to figure out how we get at least 10 Republicans. That’s just simple math.”
As Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told WLS Radio last week, Democrats may not even have the votes for a simple majority at this point.
“There are some Senators who are up for election who say, ‘I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for election, even on the wealthiest people,’” Durbin said. “So, we’re not gonna have 100 percent Democratic Senators. That’s why it needs to be bipartisan, and I hope we can find some Republicans who will join us to make it happen.”