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A Million Little Pieces: Obama's Jobs Bill Is on Hold in the Senate

Thursday, October 13, 2011

OCT 13 2011, 10:04 AM ET 6

Is it dead? Will some of it pass? What will the parcels look like? Some indications on the future of the president's plan.

Obama deficit speech waving 2 - Jason Reed Reuters - banner.jpg
President Obama's jobs bill failed in the Senate this week, and now Democratic leaders will break it into pieces that, they hope, will win enough Republican support to pass.
"Tonight's vote is by no means the end of this fight," President Obama said in a statement released Tuesday night. "We will now work with Senator Reid to make sure that the individual proposals in this jobs bill get a vote as soon as possible."
What's the timeline on this? Will most of Obama's proposals pass? What can we expect the political outcome to be?
Timeline: Senate Democratic leaders will start crafting the pieces in November, according to a senior Democratic aide. They'll have to cut bargains with Republicans not just on policy, but on how to offset the new spending -- not an easy task. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference Wednesday that the piece-drafting process has not yet begun. Realistically, it's doubtful the Senate will be able to move any part of Obama's bill before mid- to late- November.
What will the pieces look like? No one seems to know. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has floated the idea of coupling Obama's proposed national infrastructure bank with a GOP-proposed "repatriation" tax break for U.S. companies bringing their earnings back to American soil. While it sounds good on paper, Schumer's proposal could be a long shot, as Democrats have had problems with that tax proposal before.
Will Democrats stick with their proposal to tax millionaires? Most likely, but it will continue to be a tough sell with Republicans. Reid included this proposal as an alternative to Obama's suggestion to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 and on oil companies, which could not have gathered unanimous Democratic support. Democrats can still use the millionaire tax to pay for smaller chunks of the plan, if they adjust the rate increase on millionaires, tailoring the tax hike to offset different amounts of spending.
Will most of Obama's plan pass the Senate? Probably not. While Democrats could have an easier time cutting deals with the GOP on individual pieces, Senate Republicans do not see eye to eye with Democrats on deficit-reduction mechanisms to pay for those pieces. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he opposes raising taxes on anyone -- and tax hikes are the cornerstone of Democratic "pay-fors." It's possible that Congress's deficit-reduction "supercommittee" will get roped into solving the deficit-offset issue, as Obama suggested when he first laid out the $447 billion plan. The committee must approve its deficit-reduction plan by Nov. 23, so the timelines sync up more or less.
Who will win the political fight? Obama has made the bill a high priority, knowing fully that Senate Republicans could and likely would block it. After Tuesday night's failure, Obama indicated that he would press for the individual pieces of his bill to pass. By all indications, Obama intended to hammer Republicans for opposing his package and his popular plan of taxing rich people to pay for it, but as Democrats and Republicans cut deals in the Senate, Obama will be dragged back into the ideological middle if he stumps for compromises that involve significant concessions from his own party.
Image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters


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