Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama sent his jobs bill to Congress accompanied by demands that the legislation be passed with “no games, no politics, no delays.”
This bill is almost Clintonian in the artful way it’s been crafted, so that if many, even most, of its provisions passed Congress, both sides could claim modest victory.
House Speaker John Boehner said it was his hope that fellow Republicans could work together with the White House. Almost as he was speaking, Obama was off to sell the bill in the speaker’s home state of Ohio.
House Republican leader Eric Cantor said he saw some things in the bill on which they could work together to build consensus. By no coincidence, Obama took off for Cantor’s Richmond, Va., district almost immediately after addressing Congress about the bill.
Obama may be down in the polls — not, mind you, down so far as Congress — but the presidency is still a bully pulpit that the president, his oratory newly shorn of nuance and subtlety, shows every sign of using from now to Election Day.
The bill has much the Republicans can support — indeed, have supported — and would find it politically awkward to reject now: an extension of a tax break allowing companies to fully expense new equipment purchases; ratifying three new free-trade agreements; and tax credits for hiring veterans and the long-term unemployed.
They will go along, perhaps grudgingly, with extending a temporary cut in the Social Security payroll tax for individuals and extending a similar cut in the payroll tax to small businesses.
GOP lawmakers may doubt the economic wisdom of the cuts and worry about the cost, but they are in a bind because so many of them signed a pledge that deems any end to a temporary tax cut as a forbidden tax increase.
Obama may get some of the infrastructure money he asked for, but nowhere near all of it because the Republicans consider that to be “stimulus” spending.
The president has said that everything in the $447 billion bill would be fully paid for, but he hasn’t yet said how. Specifics are likely to be left to the bipartisan, deficit-cutting supercommittee of 12 lawmakers, who have indicated that they are not happy being saddled with that additional task.
As GOP strategist Mark McKinnon pointed out, “If we don’t help pass something, we deserve to get Trumanized.”
The reference is to the GOP lawmakers who said no to everything that President Harry Truman proposed prior to the 1948 election and then saw him returned to office by running against the “Do Nothing” Congress.
The outlook is for small bits and pieces of the jobs bill to pass, enough for both sides to claim victories, if only small ones.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer and columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.