By Mike Lillis - 09/08/11 09:30 AM EDT
House Democratic leaders are calling on President Obama to forget about trying to persuade Republican lawmakers to back the party’s job message.
The pleas come from some Democrats who were frustrated with the president’s agreement on the debt-limit debate earlier this summer, and are looking to change the political dynamic on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“The Republican leadership is not going to cooperate,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told MSNBC Wednesday. “It’s in their best interest that the president appear ineffective and not get anything done.
“He’s gotta take this fight to the American public, and that’s what we want to urge him to do.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delivered a similar message this week, saying the solution to the jobs crisis — as well as the partisan impasse that’s practically defined Congress this year — begins “in a message that the president will be taking to the American people.”
“It’s a way to not only create jobs, but to strengthen our infrastructure,” Pelosi said Tuesday, referring to the Democrats’ push for new stimulus spending.
Obama’s speech has been the talk of Washington, as the president’s approval numbers have plunged in recent months and job-creation figures have lagged well behind most other post-recession indicators. The economy created no jobs in August, the Labor Department reported last week.
With some details of Obama’s jobs strategy leaking this week, Republican leaders have pounced, particularly on provisions to boost federal spending on infrastructure and other public-works projects.
“I can pretty confidently say everybody in the Republican Conference of the Senate thinks that we need to quit doing what we’ve been doing — quit borrowing, quit spending, quit threatening to raise taxes and quit having a big wet blanket on top of the private sector of economy by this explosion of regulations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday.
But Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said Republicans would attack the White House plan “whether it’s bold or mild.” With that in mind, he argued, Obama should not hold back.
“It’s the right fight for the president to be in,” Welch said, referring to the severity of the lingering jobs crisis.
On budget issues, Republicans have given critics some reason to question their motives.
Last year, for instance, Senate Republicans shot down a proposal empowering a bipartisan budget panel to recommend deficit-slashing strategies that Congress would then have to consider. Six GOP co-sponsors voted no after Obama endorsed the bill. McConnell also opposed the measure, just months after characterizing it as the “best way to address the [budget] crisis.”
More recently, during the drawn-out debt-ceiling fight, Republicans demanded for months that the package include an enormous deficit-reduction effort. When Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) were nearing that goal, however, an uproar from House Republicans forced Boehner to back away from the proposal. Instead, Congress settled on a deficit-reduction deal roughly half the targeted size.
“Mr. Boehner, in my view, wanted to reach an agreement,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. “But his party did not want him to reach an agreement.”
Boehner later said he got 98 percent of what he wanted in the deal.
Obama this month sought to appease his GOP critics by delaying a pending environmental regulation designed to reduce carbon emissions — a rule that’s anathema to conservatives, who say it will hobble businesses.
But if the president thought it would buy him some leverage with Republican leaders, he was mistaken.
“You don’t lift a single regulation and suddenly claim to be Margaret Thatcher,” McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) quipped that if Obama found the cure for cancer, Republicans would oppose it.