Political Animal


October 18, 2011 8:00 AM Dems put teachers’, first responders’ jobs on deck

By Steve Benen

At an event in North Carolina yesterday, President Obama talked up the next phase in the fight over job creation. We knew Dems would start to move on individual provisions within the American Jobs Act, and yesterday, we learned which component would go first.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to break up my jobs bill. Maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole all at once. So we’re going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation.

“So this week I’m going to ask members of Congress to vote on one component of the plan, which is whether we should put hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the classroom, and cops back on the street, and firefighters back to work. So members of Congress will have a chance to decide — what kind of future do our kids deserve? Should we stand up for men and women who are often digging into their own pockets to buy school supplies, when we know that the education of our children is going to determine our future as a nation?

“They’re going to have a chance to decide, do we want to make sure that we’re looking after the men and women who protect our communities every day — our first responders, our firefighters, our police officers?”

The price tag for the measure would be about $35 billion, and it’s projected to save or create roughly 400,000 jobs for teachers, cops, and fire fighters. It would be paid for with a very slight increase on taxes on millionaires and billionaires. (The overall American Jobs Act, priced at over $400 billion, required a 5.6% surtax on the very rich. Because Democrats are now pushing one provision at a time, each component would require a much smaller tax increase to pay for a much smaller bill — in this case, $35 billion.)

Why are Dems pursuing this first? It may have something to do with the idea’s overwhelming popularity — a CNN poll released yesterday asked respondents whether they’d support “providing federal money to state governments to allow them to hire teachers and first responders.” A whopping 75% supported the measure, making it the most popular idea for public investment of any proposed. Even 63% of Republicans approve of the spending.

But on Capitol Hill, it’s a different story. Senate GOP officials have already announced their intention to not only kill the bill through yet another filibuster, but also to delay the vote. Republican leaders will apparently slow walk an appropriations bill to fund several cabinet agencies, hoping to use an endless stream of pointless amendments to push off the jobs bill.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday, “There is no reason we cannot finish the appropriations bills before the end of the week, and have a vote on this jobs bill. I am happy to keep the Senate in session as long as needed to make sure we get a vote on this jobs bill.”

In other words, if GOP senators use stalling tactics, Reid will just keep the Senate going indefinitely.

While that plays out, the total number of Republican lawmakers in either chamber willing to support the teachers/first responders jobs bill — or even allow a vote on the bill — is currently zero, despite overwhelming support from the American mainstream.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on October 18, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Herman Cain is off in the country somewhere talking about his ineffective '9-9-9 Plan.'

    The Republicans in Congress will soon be using their own highly effective 'Nein! NEIN!! NEIN!!!' Plan.

    Party uber country!


  • just bill on October 18, 2011 8:21 AM:

    my god these guys are a**holes.

  • walt on October 18, 2011 8:27 AM:

    Republicans can respond by citing polls where the public overwhelmingly supports cutting spending. We know how this game is played. What we don't know is whether the public can be moved enough to actually vote their own interests instead of the plutocracy's. That's the real question here. And this is where Democrats tend to get skittish because most are playing the political consultant's game of tailoring their views to the issues that poll the best.

    At some point, Democrats may have to simply spell it out to themselves along with the corporate media and assorted stooges: this election is going to be a national referendum about who this nation belongs to. Republicans favor the wealthy. Democrats the 99%. Republicans have the money. Democrats have history. Which side are you on?

    We have to burn that question into the minds of voters.

  • N.Wells on October 18, 2011 8:56 AM:

    Subdividing is a smart move: get the R's to go on record against each good idea, and against even the smallest increase in taxes on the wealthy, again, and again, and again. 24 items at the rate of one every two weeks, perhaps?

  • zandru on October 18, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Now, What We Need...

    ... is to make sure the news media report that REPUBLICANS filibustered, REPUBLICANS voted down, REPUBLICANS blocked.

    If they don't, call or write in to your local news outlets: Newspapers, local teevie stations, the cable networks, etc. Gripe about their right wing bias. Tell them when you watch news, you want information, not their Republican ideology. Name a few of their sponsors and what you're going to tell them.

    Repeat until things change.

  • Anonymous on October 18, 2011 11:44 AM:

    I was talking with a friend of mine, a retired RN who loved working the ER, really smart, but doesn't pay the closest attention to process (she's an extremely busy retired person) and she mentioned the latest Republican anti-abortion bill that passed the House last week, and was appalled, thinking it was now law. I explained that the Senate would not take it up and that were it to get to his desk the president said he would veto it... nothing she had read told her that. But I did tell her that if the Repubs are in charge of everything, it could become law. So it's vital that we get people to vote Democratic next year, and GOTV from Dems.

    So maybe that's the way we all need to speak with people we know, about what their specific concerns are and how they would be harmed by a Republican-controlled government. Plus what zandru suggests. It's definitely an uphill battle - I think most people just tune everything politics out but somehow the truth must be available.