More than one month after President Barack Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress to extol his American Jobs Act, Congressional Democrats have no clear path forward on the package in the face of a GOP filibuster in the Senate and the House Republican leadership’s lack of interest in taking up the measure.
The White House and Democratic leaders indicated they plan to push pieces of it, but that might not happen before the next Senate recess in two weeks, according to that chamber’s Democratic aides.
Democrats, of course, have plenty of disagreements within their own ranks over what to do next — to the delight of the GOP.
Some are talking about just moving the tax cuts in an effort to corner the GOP; others want spending on infrastructure or other pieces. And they are still arguing among themselves over how to pay for any type of package.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had hoped to unite his caucus with a 5.6-percent surtax on income of more than $1 million, but he still ran into dissenters.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), for example, ripped the new “millionaire tax” Tuesday not because it strikes millionaires, but because it doesn’t touch the 15 percent capital gains tax rate, which allows many millionaires — such as Warren Buffett — to pay a lower overall tax rate than middle-class workers.
“If you’re willing to discuss capital gains, I know you’re serious,” he said. “If you’re not ready to discuss capital gains, I think we have seen this movie before.”
Webb also complained about the timing of moving to the jobs bill, as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction is still meeting to hash out a broader budget deal.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), meanwhile, said that while he would vote with Democrats to bring the jobs bill to the floor, he would vote against passage unless it shrinks dramatically.
“I will seek to amend the American Jobs Act down to a very few of its constituent parts that I think are worth their cost,” he said.
Lieberman said the bill spends “half [of] a trillion [dollars] we don’t have” and that while he supported Obama’s stimulus package in 2009, it didn’t provide the “jolt” the president hoped it would. Lieberman called the latest package a “mini-stimulus” and said the best thing Congress could do for jobs is to reduce the debt. He said he didn’t object to a millionaire tax but that it should go toward deficit reduction, not more stimulus.
Democratic aides shrugged off the Democratic dissents and said breaking the bill into smaller pieces could make it harder for the GOP to oppose. Republicans will either have to give in on something or they will get the blame for a dysfunctional Congress, the aides said.
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.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.