President Barack Obama held a news conference at the White House today to pressure Congress to back his $447 billion jobs package, but Senate Democrats plan to keep blocking a vote on it until next week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced his intention to offer the bill today under a gambit requiring a two-thirds vote to suspend Senate rules and take up the measure. Democrats are expected to block McConnell's effort at a straight-up vote on the bill, but Republicans sought to use the procedural vote as a proxy for the president's package.
"As Sen. Reid has said, we will vote on President Obama's jobs plan early next week," said Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "We're not going to suspend the rules to allow the Republicans to pull a political stunt."
McConnell wants to vote on the original text of Obama's plan, not on Reid's version, which replaced Obama's tax hikes on various industries with a 5.6 percent surtax on millionaires.
McConnell is expected to force a procedural vote to suspend cloture on the pending China currency bill. If the earlier vote to invoke cloture, or beat back a filibuster, on the currency bill were suspended, McConnell would be permitted to offer an amendment that contained the original text of Obama's jobs plan.
A two-thirds vote would be required to pull off the procedural maneuver to suspend cloture, a threshold that almost certainly will not be broken. However, by forcing even a procedural vote on the text of Obama's bill as the amendment, Republicans are hoping to show there is not enough support for the measure to pass it.
Democrats plan to push next week for a vote on Reid's altered jobs bill. Reid changed the bill to tax millionaires to pay for the proposal in an effort to unite Democrats, some of whom objected to eliminating tax breaks on oil companies or on people making more than $250,000 a year.
Obama has also summoned Senate Democratic leaders to the White House for a 5:30 p.m. meeting on the jobs bill.
In his press conference, Obama noted that economists have said that growth and jobs will increase with his package and could falter without it — and warned in particular of economic problems in Europe as having the potential to send the United States into another downturn.
"People really need help right now. Our economy really needs a jolt right now," Obama said, calling 9 percent unemployment an "emergency" and challenging Senators to explain why they oppose each individual piece of his plan.
He said Republicans should love this plan.
"This jobs bill would cut taxes for virtually every worker or small-business owner in America," Obama said.
Asked why he has been going across the country instead of reaching out to the GOP — Obama said he keeps getting rebuffed by Republicans who prefer to score political points.
"That's been true over the past two and a half years," he said.
Obama also challenged the GOP to offer a plan of its own that independent economists would say would boost jobs now: "Do they have a plan that would have a similar impact? Because if they do I'm happy to hear it."
Obama said he intends to keep up the pressure even if his plan doesn't pass initially. GOP Members will have to explain "piece by piece" why they oppose proposals to put teachers back to work, rebuild roads and bridges and cut taxes for workers and small businesses, Obama said.
"We're going to keep on going," Obama said.
Obama also said he was "fine" with Senate Democrats' plan to pay for the proposal with a millionaires tax, but he said more work still needs to be done to reform the tax code, including implementing the "Buffett Rule" so that no millionaires pay lower tax rates than middle-class workers.
"Some see this as class warfare; I see this as a simple choice," he said, one that pits tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires against programs and tax cuts intended to boost hiring. "We can't afford both," he said.
But Republicans, even moderates who have demonstrated a willingness to join Democrats before, remain icy about the plan despite Reid's changes.
"If it's just a millionaires' surtax on top of what already was a bad bill, it doesn't work," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has broken with her party several times to support Reid-backed initiatives in the past.