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October 06, 2011 8:35 AM Shoring up Senate support for the American Jobs Act

By Steve Benen

Before proponents of the American Jobs Act can even think of the Republican-led House — Majority Leader Eric Cantor declared the bill “dead” earlier this week — they need to figure out a way to get majority support in the Democratic-led Senate. As we learned Tuesday, that’s not quite as easy as it should be.

Senate Democrats don’t seem to have any meaningful concerns about the job-creating provisions of the plan — infrastructure investments, tax breaks, saving public-sector jobs, etc. — but aren’t comfortable with financing. Most notably, senators like Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), won’t support a plan that eliminates tax subsidies for oil companies.

The job for Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders was to find a financing plan the caucus can support. They appear to have succeeded.

In proposing a 5 percent surtax on incomes of more than $1 million a year to pay for job-creation measures sought by President Obama, Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday escalated efforts to strike a more populist tone and to draw Republicans into a confrontation over how much affluent Americans should pay to help others cope with a struggling economy. […]

The new plan, devised by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, has a twofold purpose: to draw a sharp contrast with Congressional Republicans, who have dug in against any increases in tax rates, and to quell a revolt brewing among some Democrats who objected to parts of the White House plan.

After some additional intra-party discussions, the plan was tweaked just a little more — the surtax would be 5.6%; it would apply exclusively to millionaires and billionaires; and would take effect in 2013, not 2012. If approved, the measure would raise about $445 billion over 10 years, which would pay for just about every penny of the American Jobs Act.

Landrieu and Begich appeared pleased, which suggested Democrats could probably get 51 votes in the Senate for the jobs bill. Would support from the Democratic caucus be unanimous? Almost certainly not — Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin are likely to oppose any measure that raises taxes on anyone, even if the vast majority of Americans support the idea, especially since they’re both seeking re-election in conservative states next year.

But there are 53 Senate Dems, and the leadership is aiming for 51 votes.

The White House, by the way, considers the financing debate a sideshow, and doesn’t seem to much care how lawmakers pay for the bill.

Republicans will use Nelson’s and Manchin’s opposition to say there’s “bipartisan” opposition to creating jobs right now, and as a technical matter, that will be accurate. But it won’t change a simple truth: most of the Senate, like most of the country, supports the American Jobs Act, and it’s Republican obstructionism, not Democratic apprehension, that will block progress in the upper chamber.

Cantor responded to the plan by saying, “Most people in America think it’s counterintuitive to raise taxes if you want economic growth.” The oft-confused Majority Leader shouldn’t make up public attitudes that don’t exist — most people in America support raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, and believe the tax change would boost the economy.

By all indications, the next step will be pressuring Senate Republicans to simply allow the chamber to vote, up or down, on the bill.

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.

Comments

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  • c u n d gulag on October 06, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Steve,
    Get with the times:

    "Up or down vote," is SOOOOOOOOOO 2000's....

  • FRP on October 06, 2011 8:50 AM:

    I guess the old saw about three sailors a boat , a pail and a leak was true .

  • walt on October 06, 2011 8:51 AM:

    Ben Nelson I understand but Joe Manchin? What is it with West Virginia? Excuse my exasperation, but what kind of dumb white trash would worry more about millionaires than the fact that their lives are halfway tolerable because of income redistribution? We all know how this works, of course, so I'm simply being a faux-naif here. Whisper the N word in those hillbilly ears and you could get them to vote away their SS and Medicare if it helped "job creators".

  • Stevo on October 06, 2011 8:51 AM:

    By all indications, the next step will be pressuring Senate Republicans to simply allow the chamber to vote, up or down, on the bill.

    Yeah, let me know how that goes...

  • Chris on October 06, 2011 8:56 AM:

    Question: Can this bill be passed in the Senate via reconciliation? If so, then why not do it?

  • SadOldVet on October 06, 2011 8:57 AM:

    As sure as the sun rises in the east, we can count on the corporately owned dumbocraps (Landrieu, et. al.) and the DINOs (Ben Nelson, et. al.) to follow the wishes of their wealthy masters and subvert any plans not endorsed by the repuke party.

  • DAY on October 06, 2011 9:01 AM:

    What could POSSIBLY be more important than saving us from another recession?
    Why, getting re-elected, silly boy!

  • FRP on October 06, 2011 9:08 AM:

    What could POSSIBLY be more valuable than risking entering another recession?

    Why ...

    Money !

    ... Silly boy!

    Elections are years , money is forever .

    Vote your lordships pocketbook

  • berttheclock on October 06, 2011 9:20 AM:

    Ben Nelson's two highest groups of contributors are law firms and insurance companies. He was the former Insurance Commissioner for Nebraska. He was, also, instrumental in the passage of tort reform for Nebraska. Part of that TR is any punitive damage money awarded has to be paid to school districts instead of going to the plaintiff. One of the reasons, he was against the ACA was due to how it would affect TR in Nebraska.

    BTW, of those law firms, only two are Trial Lawyer's. He is funded by firms representing insurance companies and the insurance companies themselves. So, Thieves of Omaha are in very good hands with Ben.

  • T2 on October 06, 2011 9:26 AM:

    Obama has called a Press Conf for this morning, topic unknown. Here's hoping the purpose is to yell "PASS THIS BILL" a thousand times and call out Canton, Ryan, McConnell, Boner, and Nelson as the people stopping the jobs rebound in this country.
    Anything less will be disappointing.

  • DRF on October 06, 2011 10:11 AM:

    I'm all for this bill, but just a technical note: A tax on incomes over $1 Million isn't necessarily a tax on "millionaires". A millionaire is someone with at least $1 Million of net assets. Someone earning $ Million in salary may or may not be a millionaire, since that individual pays taxes and living expenses out of that salary. Several years of earning $1 Million ought to allow one to accumulate sufficient assets to qualify as a millionaire, but that's not automatically the case.

    Just saying....

  • Anonymous on October 06, 2011 10:36 AM:

    "Republicans will use Nelson’s and Manchin’s opposition to say there’s “bipartisan” opposition to creating jobs right now, and as a technical matter, that will be accurate."

    I can't understand this. Why is it when 100% of one party along with 3.77% of the other party against something and 96.23% of the other party is for it called "bipartisan."

    Hell, some blacks fought for the South in the Civil War. Did the South have "bipartisan" support from both whites and blacks?

  • Robert Waldmann on October 06, 2011 11:37 AM:

    The position taken by Manchin and Ben Nelson is not surprising. However, I suspect that they are reducing their chances of re-election. Yes Nebraska is very Republican and West Virginia is very hostile to Obama. However, a majority of self described Conservatives and self identified Republicans support higher taxes on families with income over $ 1 M. I strongly suspect that this is especially true of people who focus on the social issues (to be clear I mean on genitals) and of uh ethnocentric Whites.

    I think that Ben Nelson and Manchin really want to commission a poll of their constituents before the vote.

    Especially Nelson. He is not in great shape (incumbent behind in the polls). It would not be rational for him to play it safe. I would guess that if the campaign is about higher taxes on millionaires then he wins and otherwise he probably loses.

    That is I am going so far as to say that for Nelson to vote no would be a terrible political mistake which would make it much less likely that he is re-elected.

    But I'm just guessing. I have never been in Nebraska. However, I'd definitely advise him to poll before he votes.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 06, 2011 11:54 AM:

    “Most people in America think it’s counterintuitive to raise taxes if you want economic growth.”

    It's revealing that Cantor doesn't understand what "counterintuitive" means. The way he's using the word here, he seems to think anything that is counterintuitive must necessarily be wrong, when in fact counterintuition is the whole basis of science and critical thought.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 06, 2011 11:55 AM:

    “Most people in America think it’s counterintuitive to raise taxes if you want economic growth.”

    It's revealing that Cantor doesn't understand what "counterintuitive" means. The way he's using the word here, he seems to think anything that is counterintuitive must necessarily be wrong, when in fact counterintuition is the whole basis of science and critical thought.

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