GOP Leaders Lay Out Plan to Block Reid’s Jobs Bill
Senate Republican leaders are hoping to persuade waffling members of their Conference to block Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) $15 billion jobs bill by arguing that Reid has brushed aside minority rights in bringing it to the floor, aides told a gathering of lobbyists Wednesday.
Although Reid’s decision to abandon an $85 billion bipartisan bill negotiated by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in favor of his targeted approach has upset Republicans, aides acknowledged there is still no consensus within the GOP on how to vote on a cloture motion Monday to begin debate on the measure.
For instance, an aide to Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that while his boss isn’t happy with Reid’s handling of the bill, Inhofe hasn’t decided how he will vote. “At this point he’s not sure,” the aide said, explaining that the inclusion of a one-year extension to the Highway Trust Fund is a high priority for Inhofe. But “in terms of an actual bill on Monday, given that we didn’t know what was in it until Thursday … it’s a little hard for him to commit one way or the other at this point.”
Given the divisions within the GOP Conference — and the fact that Republicans have largely backed most of the bill’s provisions in the past — leadership aides told lobbyists that the GOP plans to attack Reid’s bill over process, rather than policy.
More than 100 lobbyists representing the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and other associations attended the meeting with staff from the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Grassley.
“The feeling is they aren’t going to say anything in opposition to the bill, except to say it’s incomplete,” a lobbyist who attended the meeting said. “They are not opposed to the bill, they just believe their rights as the minority have been abridged.”
Neither party has had much success with process-based messaging in the past. But GOP aides said they hope the strategy will succeed this time given public fatigue with partisanship.
“Evan Bayh has made bipartisanship and the process of working together a story,” a GOP aide said of the Democratic Senator from Indiana, adding that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union challenged Republicans to work across the aisle. “So I think it works very well,” the aide said.
In that vein, Democrats are also hoping to use the mantle of bipartisanship to push Reid’s stripped-down version of the bill. For instance, during a conference call Wednesday, Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) repeatedly referred to the measure as a “bipartisan package” and highlighted the broad support each provision has had in the past. She also stressed that Reid will pursue a series of job-creation bills and that provisions included in the broader bill negotiated by Baucus and Grassley will be included in those measures. “We’re going to have other jobs bills … [Reid] said there’s no doubt we’re going to have some follow on here,” Boxer said.
Democrats are also expected to target Republicans like moderate Sens. George Voinovich (Ohio), Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) to try to get enough support to bring the bill to the floor.
“We’re hoping Senators like Scott Brown … would look at this bipartisan bill and vote on the merits and not vote against it just because Mitch McConnell told him to,” Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau said. “Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect a certain level of hypocrisy from Senate Republicans when it comes to working on a bipartisan basis, but we have high hopes that Scott Brown proves to be a different kind of Senator.”
Meanwhile, the business community, medical field and agriculture interests have been pushing Reid to reconsider adding back several of the Baucus-Grassley provisions. The Information Technology Industry Council sent a letter to Reid on Wednesday, urging him to reconsider tax credits for the high-tech community.
“We strongly support efforts to strengthen and extend the R&D tax credit,” ITIC President Dean Garfield wrote.