President Barack Obama held another news conference at the White House to pressure Congress to back his $447 billion jobs package, but the Senate is expected to vote to reject it as soon as today.
“People really need help right now. Our economy really needs a jolt right now,” Obama said. Obama called 9 percent unemployment an “emergency” and challenged 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.
A procedural vote on the president’s proposed package of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and aid to state and local governments could come up for a Senate vote as soon as today at the request of the GOP. The vote will not be on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) version, which replaced Obama’s tax hikes on various industries with a 5.6 percent surtax on millionaires.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced he would force a vote today, but as of 1 p.m., it was unclear how the vote would be structured. Reid said on the floor that it could either come up as a regular amendment with an artificially set 60-vote threshold for adoption or as a motion by McConnell 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 may be able to show there is not enough support for the measure to pass it.
Democrats plan to push next week for the altered jobs bill that is paid for by a 5.6 percent tax surcharge on incomes of more than $1 million. Reid altered the taxes to 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.
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 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.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.