White House works to quell Dem dissent

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.
 

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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.
 
Plouffe said officials hope to “convince the American people this is the right way to go to create jobs [and] convince as many Democrats here as we can.”
 
“I think the vast majority of them are excited about it,” Plouffe said after the meeting.
 
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) pointedly told Plouffe and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, who also attended the meeting, that the administration is wrong to target the revenues of oil-and-gas companies.
 
“I want a broader sweep on tax reform. Just picking out one industry is not acceptable,” Begich said after the meeting.
 
Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who hosted the meeting, downplayed the differences between Democrats and the administration.
 
Schumer said Plouffe and Sperling answered every question asked of them.
 
“It was informative and we’re on the same page and we’re on the same team,” Schumer said. “People brought up their concerns, which people always have, but it was a great meeting and it shows that we’re unified.
 
“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.
 
Democratic lawmakers have criticized the administration for not doing more to keep them in the loop on policy negotiations and political strategy.
 
Senate Democrats were incensed in July when news emerged that Obama was on the cusp of striking a grand deficit-reduction bargain with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that would have cut Medicare.
 
Obama’s plans to pay for the jobs bill, which he unveiled this week, met a cool reception from some Senate Democrats.
 
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has said Congress should not increase taxes on ordinary income, calling the idea terrible.
 
Obama would pay for his plan by limiting itemized deductions for wealthy individuals and families and increasing taxes on hedge fund managers, in addition to eliminating tax breaks for oil-and-gas companies.
 
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has also come out strongly opposed to higher taxes on the oil industry.
 
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has balked at the idea of raising taxes on the health benefits of high-income earners.
 
Mikulski appeared unconvinced after meeting with senior administration officials, but declined to discuss the “specifics” of her concerns.
 
“We’re all trying to figure out the answers to my questions, particularly the pay-fors,” she said.
 
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday morning that Obama should abandon his jobs plan, given bipartisan opposition.
 
“The White House probably expected stronger support from Democrats than it’s gotten so far,” McConnell said. “After all, this bill’s top selling point, according to the president, was both parties should like it. Yet, so far, the only thing both parties in Congress seem to agree on is that there’s got to be a better way.
 
“It seemed like the only Democrats who were even willing to talk about it here on Capitol Hill were tearing it apart,” he said.