In a further indication just how badly the White House fumbled the jobs bill, The Hill reports that administration officials had to meet with opponents in Congress to convince them to back the plan. Unfortunately for Barack Obama, those opponents weren’t House Republicans. They were Senate Democrats — and so far, it’s still no sale:
Senior administration officials met with Senate Democrats for an hour and a half on Thursday to answer their complaints about President Obama’s jobs bill.
Democratic lawmakers voiced objections to several of the president’s proposals to pay for the $447 billion stimulus package, including an elimination of tax breaks for the oil-and-gas industry.
David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the president, acknowledged after a marathon meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room that not all Democrats are sold on the plan. …
“I think the vast majority of them are excited about it,” Plouffe said after the meeting.
“The vast majority”? It only takes four of them to keep it from passing on a floor vote, as Democrats only have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate. In the news report itself, there are already enough Democrats objecting to derail it entirely. Mark Begich, Jim Webb, Mary Landrieu, and Barbara Mikulski are all named in this report as opposing the bill. None of them face voters in 2012, having to explain backing tax hikes, massive new spending, and a rerun of the 2009 Porkulus flop. If Mikulski objects to the bill, will Ben Nelson in Nebraska back it? Claire McCaskill in Missouri? Mark Pryor, who has to stand for re-election in Arkansas in 2014? None of the endangered Democrats in the next two cycles will dare vote for $450 billion in new spending to do the exact same thing that didn’t work in 2009.
Chuck Schumer hosted the meeting, according to the report, which is curious in itself. Why not Harry Reid? Isn’t he the Majority Leader? Why not Dick Durbin, who is Reid’s second in command and presumably a backer of the jobs bill from his fellow Illinois politician? Schumer tried to paint a picture of unity on the way out of the meeting:
“There were some disagreements on different parts here and there but the overall feeling was that the administration is open to suggestions from members about different policy issues on jobs and strategic ways to deal with jobs,” he added.
“Open to suggestions” means “back to the drawing board.” This is why a competent White House would have asked their allies in the one chamber of Congress their party still controls for input before writing the bill. Their failure to engage with their allies had Senate Democrats publicly blasting the plan earlier this week, ruining Obama’s strategy of blaming Republicans for stalling on his jobs bill. If the White House can’t even convince Democrats to take the plunge with Porkulus II: Economic Boogaloo, Republicans will argue, then why should they?
We can also count Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey as an example of what battleground-state Senators will do when presented with Obama’s jobs bill. In an interview with KDKA, Casey says he won’t go for the package as presented — and instead backs the idea from House Republicans to break up the bill into a series of votes on each component:
“I’m afraid if we tried to pass one big bill, I think there’s a lot of skepticism about big pieces of legislation with all kinds of different component parts. We should break this up”, said Casey. He later stated, “Why not have a series of votes on job creation strategies – five votes, 10 votes, I don’t care if it’s 25 votes.”
So that’s five Senate Democrats on the record as opposing the bill so far, which is why Reid won’t schedule it for a vote. The AJA has become a complete debacle for Obama and his team. If the Senate can’t move it — and I doubt it will ever come to the floor — then Obama will have made himself as irrelevant as he possibly could have on jobs and the economy, and painted himself as a man with no clue as to how to boost the economy … or even get a bill passed.