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In Whole or in Parts, Jobs Bill Likely to Go Nowhere

In Whole or in Parts, Jobs Bill Likely to Go Nowhere

By Alexis Simendinger - October 14, 2011

There is scant chance that Congress will pass most or perhaps any elements of President Obama’s jobs bill, no matter how many ways the package is sliced into component parts. The $447 billion measure that might have added as many as 1.9 million jobs is going nowhere, if conversations inside the White House and on Capitol Hill are any guide.

Obama vowed Thursday to press lawmakers to adopt as separate provisions pieces of the bill, given that the Senate blocked a Democratic version of the measure this week. Insisting that bipartisan support exists for individual elements of his legislation, the president said he would shame lawmakers into explaining why they won’t take actions that might help some of the 14 million Americans currently unemployed.

“The Republicans haven’t given a good answer as to why they have not agreed to . . . rebuild our roads and our bridges and our schools,” Obama said at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is on an official state visit to Washington.

“They have not given us a good reason as to why they don't want to put teachers back in the classroom,” he continued from the East Room. “And so what we’re going to do is we’re going to break each of these bills apart. We’re going to say, ‘Let’s have a vote on putting teachers back in the classroom. Let’s have a vote on rebuilding our infrastructure. Let’s have a vote on making sure that we are keeping taxes low for small businesses and businesses that are willing to hire veterans, provide tax breaks for further investment that can create jobs.’ And each time we’re going to ask Republicans to support the bill. And if they don't want to support the bill, they’ve got to answer not just to us, but also the American people as to why they wouldn’t.”

The president’s team conceded Thursday that it is up to Congress to decide whether and how to proceed. No new negotiating sessions or meetings were scheduled as of Thursday between Obama, Vice President Biden and key lawmakers. The president last met with Senate Democrats Oct. 7 at the White House.

There is some evidence that his efforts to cast Congress -- burdened by lower job approval evaluations than even the president -- as a villain is working. Recent polling suggests Americans support ingredients of the job-creation bill, even if they do not support Obama, and they favor raising taxes on millionaires as a way to pay for a blend of infrastructure spending and payroll tax reductions through 2013. The 5.6 percent millionaire surtax was the brainchild of Senate Democrats, not the White House, although Obama backs what he calls the “Buffett rule” to improve tax fairness.

Some Senate Republicans are following in the House GOP’s footsteps in trying to develop their own jobs plan as the president travels the country arguing that a do-nothing Congress is keeping teachers unemployed, construction workers idle, and military veterans out of work.

That sort of campaign about new employment, rather than actual legislating to help create jobs, is expected to linger into November. But the battle worth watching next month -- when the president’s jobs debate could tumble headlong into yet another congressional blockade -- involves deficit reduction.

The congressional arguments over jobs will collide with budget ideas that could emerge by Nov. 23 from among six Democrats and six Republicans better known as the super committee. The White House concedes this mash-up is a possibility, and some lawmakers suggest that, at the very least, any opening for more near-term stimulus has closed on Capitol Hill.

Similarly, there are many seasoned lawmakers and staff members on Capitol Hill and around Washington who predict with head-shaking conviction that the super committee will fail to agree to present Congress with proposals by its deadline, or fail to find their work embraced by enough of their colleagues. Some of these experts believe House and Senate leaders and the president will wrestle anew at the end of 2011 and perhaps into 2012 over deficit-reduction, especially given the punishment built into the law: across-the-board automatic spending cuts that would begin in 2013 if specific benchmarks are not reached.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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