White House takes heat for slight pivot on jobs bill

The White House on Friday deflected charges it had reneged on its own calls for bipartisanship by backtracking its support for a compromise jobs bill because top liberals disliked it.

Initially, it seemed the president would offer his nod to the jobs package unveiled this week by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) unexpectedly announced Thursday he was scrapping that proposal in favor of legislation that ultimately seemed more appealing to liberal members of the chamber's Democratic caucus.

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That has since put the White House in the precarious position of previously supporting a bill that Senate Democratic leaders have rejected  -- a spat Press Secretary Robert Gibbs struggled to downplay during his press briefing Friday.

Reporters pressed Gibbs to explain how President Obama could implore lawmakers to pass a bipartisan jobs bill at two discussions with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, yet favor a plan constructed almost exclusively by Democrats.

But Gibbs stressed Reid's bill was actually bipartisan, as it included a tax credit that Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) authored earlier this year. The proposal, which the president also supports, would offer breaks to companies that hire unemployed workers or boost paychecks of those they already employ.

"I wouldn't characterize as a Democrat-only plan," Gibbs said of the Reid proposal, "as the hiring tax credit as you know is ...legislation designed by Sen. Schumer and Sen. Hatch."

"The legislation that Sen. Reid will move, when the Senate comes back into town, will garner bipartisan support," Gibbs added.

Gibbs described that proposal as the "hallmark" component of the Senate's pending jobs legislation, and he suggested many of the items in the Baucus-Grassley plan, some of which are supported by both caucuses, could still reach the president's desk as part of future jobs packages.

"I believe that many of these will be... and voted on and approved with strong bipartisan majorities," Gibbs said.