Political Animal


October 06, 2011 3:35 PM Looking to Round 2 of the jobs fight

By Steve Benen

Is Congress going to pass the American Jobs Act? Let’s just say it’s a long shot. But given the economic need, and the popularity of the plan’s provisions, what’s the Democratic plan in the event of predictable Republican obstructionism?

President Obama, in his press conference this morning, said something I hadn’t heard from him before.

“[If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell] chooses to vote against it, or if members of his caucus choose to vote against it, I promise you we’re going to keep on going, and we will put forward maybe piece by piece each component of the bill. And each time they’re going to have to explain why it is that they’d be opposed to putting teachers back in the classroom, or rebuilding our schools, or giving tax cuts to middle-class folks, and giving tax cuts to small businesses. […]

“If … everybody on Capitol Hill is cynical and saying there’s no way that the overall jobs bill passes in its current form, we’re just going to keep on going at it. I want everybody to be clear. My intention is to insist that each part of this, I want an explanation as to why we shouldn’t be doing it, each component part: putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, putting teachers back in the classroom, tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families, tax breaks for our veterans. We will just keep on going at it….”

One of the underlying points of White House’s public relations campaign is to make Republicans pay a political price for rejecting a credible, popular, bipartisan jobs bill during an unemployment crisis. What Obama said today is that he hopes to see the GOP pay a political price more than once.

In other words, if Republicans kill the legislation, Dems will then press GOP members to start also killing its component parts, one at a time. It’s one thing to reject a package deal; it’s more striking to force Republicans to vote against popular ideas, over and over again — no to infrastructure investments, no to small business tax cuts, no to saving teachers’ jobs, no to the jobs-for-veterans tax break, etc.

Would the purpose of these string of votes be political? Obviously, though Dems may hope to catch a break and wear down some GOP members. But as stunts go, this would make a lot of sense — going into an election year, with 9% unemployment, getting Republicans on record opposing every good idea on jobs puts the party in an awkward spot.

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.


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  • Live Free or Die on October 06, 2011 3:47 PM:

    I agree with what Obama is doing. I doubt it will make any difference. 85% of the districts are gerrymandered so that they are uncompetitive. All the Republicans have to do is win their primaries. This is why despite polls showing the GOP being unpopular, they do not care. They only care about their primary. They would not care if they were at 1%. They would still act the same way.

  • zandru on October 06, 2011 3:51 PM:

    Live Free or Die!?! I don't mean to be disrespectful, but your post makes it seem as if you've already chosen.

  • zeitgeist on October 06, 2011 3:59 PM:

    it appears that Team Obama, or perhaps Obama himself, made a very big gamble. Presumably he had this populist, fighting ability and the backbone for it all along and knew it would be needed. It appears they have tried to stall as long as they could, looking presidential, building as much cred as possible on the bipartisanship issue and trying to figure out precisely the latest moment Obama could switch gears.

    i have a very strong fear that they gambled wrong and waited too late (not to be re-elected -- the R's will nominate such a lame candidate that re-election should be easy. the real issue is to salvage the ability to have a productive remaining Presidency). but we'll see. i hope they got it right.

  • Live Free or Die on October 06, 2011 4:01 PM:


    "I don't mean to be disrespectful, but your post makes it seem as if you've already chosen."

    Chosen what? Does not compute. I'm happy with the new Obama. All I'm saying is that making then multiple votes will not change the outlook, because most Republicans are scared of challenges from their right.

  • QuestionEverything on October 06, 2011 4:08 PM:

    Doesn't threatening them with breaking it apart, piece by piece, open the door to the GOP pushing for specific parts of the Jobs Bill so that they can at least vote for one or two minor provisions? Thus allowing them the path to doing nothing but passing a very small piece of this that will not produce results anything close to what the full package would produce?

  • Ron Byers on October 06, 2011 5:25 PM:

    Live Free or Die, the Republican majority is new. Most of the tea party Republicans are in districts where a strong Democratic challenger might have a really good shot. What we need to be doing is nominating and supporting strong Democrats to challenge the Tea Party Republicans. Remember the Congress flipped in 2010. It can easily flip again.

    Remember something else. Republicans have taken pride in defeating members of the Democratic leadership team. Mostly they have come right into Democratic strongholds and won by virtue of hard work and a lot of money. Turnabout is fair play. why can't Democrats do the same thing.

    I have been saying for months that the real problem progressives have is the weak kneed Democratic party. It is time we changed the party and moved out of our bunkers. Democrats need to go on the offensive.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 06, 2011 5:31 PM:

    QuestionEverything: I don't think so. Remember, it's both politics and policy, and Obama should have the upper hand in both areas if he plays this right.

    I'm working on the assumption that the Republicans really are trying to sabotage the economy, mainly because it's just obvious now and nobody is paying me to pretend otherwise. So if they're going to pass anything out of the jobs bill, they're going to be looking for the most inconsequential provisions.

    If they pass anything that accidentally does boost the economy, then they're also helping to boost Obama's reelection chances. And if the provisions they're willing to pass don't do anything for the economy, then Obama can just keep hammering on them for obstructionism and for abandoning the middle class.

  • DenverRight on October 06, 2011 7:29 PM:

    President Obama: "I promise you we’re going to keep on going, and we will put forward maybe piece by piece each component of the bill."

    GOOD! That makes sense! Finally!

    Pass what can be agreed upon. Take the incremental approach. The "Grand Deals" are never as obvious, or as bipartisan, as some in Washington pretend.

  • Tom Marney on October 06, 2011 7:32 PM:

    "Cripplingly high unemployment was very good for the Republican Party's election prospects in 2010, and they expect it to be equally good in 2012. You need to ask yourself: Is it good for you?"-- Joe Biden, in my dreams.

    I first wrote, "Cripplingly high unemployment was very good for the Republican Party in 2010," but it wasn't, was it?

  • Chris on October 06, 2011 8:58 PM:

    Thanks for all these great insights, Mr. Benen. It is encouraging. Great comments across the board. Thanks for stepping up for the President.

  • exlibra on October 06, 2011 10:01 PM:

    Obama's "tether" seems to have been longer than anybody else's but I'm glad that even he has reached the end of it. And I don't give a flying duck for the reasons (electoral politics, most likely, just as the Repubs have been doing sine January '09); I'm just glad to see him doing the right thing. I also don't care *how* the Repubs go down -- piece by piece or all at once -- as long as I'm still around to see their burial.

    Craptcha agrees: "ussrve shall" -- either method of their demise shall serve us (and US) well.

  • zandru on October 07, 2011 12:38 AM:

    @Live Free or Die: Sorry - when I read your first, I interpreted it as meaning that the situation was totally hopeless and there was no point in even trying. Maybe I ought to read better...

    I suspect you may be right about Republicans ultimately not letting anything through - after all, there's the bat-doodoo crazy House that can block ANYTHING. On the other hand, as the President said today, the American people will see just what the Republicans are opposed to - keeping teachers on the job, repairing our decaying schools, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.

    This has got to, eventually, be a winner for the Democrats. At least they will be seen to be trying; doing useful things we need and helping people get back to work. The Republicans, in turn, will have to spin wildly to convince people that it's good and moral for bridges to collapse during rush hour; that we can no longer afford to have educated citizens who might compete in the world economy.

    Frankly, I have no doubt the Republicans will try, and will do a surprisingly good job of it. After all, these are the folks who convinced the nation that letting people bleed or starve to death on the streets was the only way to ensure their "freedom."

    But people on the whole are starting to see through this act.

    "nallyle glandular" - possibly due to too much junk food - or Kool-aid?