Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 12, 2010

THE TRAVAILS OF THE JOBS BILL.... Mid-day yesterday, the top two members of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), unveiled "bipartisan" jobs bill to some fanfare. There were, however, a few problems that quickly became apparent.

For one thing, the Baucus/Grassley jobs bill was a little weak in the job-creating department. For another, their bill included a variety of tax-cut measures that had nothing to do with creating jobs.

A few hours after the "compromise" measure's unveiling, the Democratic leadership said the Baucus/Grassley jobs bill simply won't do.

Key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a rare bipartisan agreement on Thursday on steps to spur job creation. But Democratic leaders said they would move ahead on only some elements as the two parties maneuvered to address both the struggling economy and voter unrest over gridlock in Washington.

Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, said he would take four core job-creating initiatives from the bipartisan proposal -- including tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed workers and increased public works spending -- and seek to move those rapidly through the Senate.

"We feel that the American people need a message," Mr. Reid said. "The message that they need is that we're doing something about jobs."

At this point, the details are still in flux, and will presumably be worked on over next week's recess, but Reid signaled his intention to only accept portions of the Baucus/Grassley jobs bill that actually relate to jobs.

So, the Majority Leader didn't exactly make the jobs bill better, so much as he made it less bad.

By some accounts, Reid was responding to the concerns of the majority caucus, which met yesterday afternoon and expressed deep reservations about the concessions made to Republicans. Most notably, Baucus agreed to move forward with a proposal to cut the estate tax -- in other words, slash taxes on the extremely wealthy -- in exchange for possible GOP support on a weak jobs package. Dems rightly considered the concessions excessive.

Work will continue next week, with a vote expected early the following week. And if you're wondering why Dems didn't try to pass this through reconciliation, you and I are wondering the same thing.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Steve, isn't this a pretty good hypothesis about reconciliation?

a) In this Congress, K. Conrad has promised only to use it for bills that actually reduce the deficit. This bill probably wouldn't.

and b) This is the sort of small, popular measure that Democrats wouldn't actually mind *allowing* the GOP to filibuster. The economic loss would be relatively minor; the political loss to the GOP might be substantial.

Posted by: Ted U. on February 12, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

"We feel that the American people need a message," Mr. Reid said. "The message that they need is that we're doing something about jobs."

Thats the problem with these guys in a fucking nutshell. What the American people need is not the appearance that they are achieving something, but the actual achievement. They don't need the "message" that the Dems are working on jobs. They need jobs. If the Dems would focus on achieving their agenda instead of worrying so damn hard about the optics of how they go about achieving their agenda, a lesson that Republicans seemed to have learned long ago, I suspect they would find themselves in much better position now. They certainly wouldn't be worse off.

Posted by: brent on February 12, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Brent's right: the Dems don't seem to want to achieve their agenda.

Posted by: Bob M on February 12, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

brent you sum it up quite succinctly.Or in other words time for the democrats to grow a sack.

Posted by: Gandalf on February 12, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Everytime I read of any involvement by Baucus in negotiating with the RepuGs, whether from the days of the Medicare Bill, or the current health care and now, the jobs bill, I picture him at Bastogne. Had Col Baucus taken the note from General McAuliffe to the German officers, which read "Nuts" to which the Germans looked at one another, quizzically, and asked, "Nusse?", Baucus would have jumped in and said, "Well, we could give you chocolate covered almonds or would you prefer air drops of cashews?"

Baucas is akin to having Benedict Arnold negotiate with the British.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 12, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

The message I'm getting is that the Dems are operating under the "Battered Wife Syndrome"

They get abused, and then go back for more.

Or, would that be a S&M fettish?

Posted by: Mark-NC on February 12, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the Dems will ever wake up to the fact that there is no longer such a thing as a compromise with republicans. When repubs appear to be looking for a compromise, they are actually looking for a way to wreck the legislation. Then they'll turn around and point to the Dems incompetance in drafting said legislation.

Posted by: JoeW on February 12, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Brent nails it. "Let's explode the deficit further to make sure millionaires pay absolutely no taxes."

Why vote?

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on February 12, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute. I think Harry made a pretty good move here. He knew that Baucus would gum up the system and this would be seen as another Democratic failure. Pass something -- anything -- at this point. Whether we like it or not -- we can't afford to get gnarled up and look like we're not getting anything done. It's an election year.

Posted by: pol on February 12, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Reid is rumored to have taken a negative view on the bill after a staffer read the fine print. Buried in the Grassley-Baucus bill was a provision that those with an income over $250,000 would be informed of their tax cut by a postcard with a picture of a pony. Those with an annual income of over $1,000,000 were informed with the message painted on a real pony.
Baucus and Grassley are expected to hold a presser later in the day decrying class warfare.

Posted by: the seal on February 12, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

"on a real pony"

If Max had his way, he would give them rights to Rachael Alexandra with lots and lots of dollops of schlagsahne atop her outstanding withers.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 12, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

This stuff is happening when we need a $150 billion 2nd stimulus.

Why even bother, Harry?

Posted by: Ohioan on February 12, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

We need jobs, and Harry Reid is being obstructionist! The Democrats don't care about jobs.

Posted by: Luther on February 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

""...if you're wondering why Dems didn't try to pass this through reconciliation, you and I are wondering the same thing."

Two words: Harry Reid

Posted by: Chris on February 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Reid just doesn't get it. The times have changed and these obstructionist senators are unconcerned with good policy or the American people.

Nothing of real value is going to get passed until this dysfunctional senate changes it's rules and yes, the full blame rests on Sen Reid's shoulders. Exposing the republican party has already been done to the extent that they are ruining our government.

Stop it Reid. We are disgusted with you for not being more partisan and just saying screw you to these obstructionists for the sake of the people. The people voted for partisanship, for the democratic agenda, which is being discounted as if our votes meant nothing...all because of this dysfunctional senate.

How would you like it if the rule was it took 60% of the vote to get elected. Few senators would be elected if they had to have 60%. Stop trying to appease these Talibanesque obstructionists. Their abuse of the filibuster demands the rule be changed. Why can't you hear us? The senate is destroying the democratic process and you must stop it.

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