By Sam Youngman - 10/11/11 04:34 PM EDT
Bracing for the defeat of President Obama’s jobs bill, senior White House officials said Tuesday they would work with Senate Democrats to break the bill into smaller portions that might find support.
The officials emphasized their view that it is Republicans who are holding up the president’s $447 billion plan, and they downplayed Democratic defections.
Democratic unity, one official said, has “never been the test before.”
The White House officials also said it is absurd to suggest Democrats don't support the bill because a handful of Senate Democrats are opposed to it.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the president’s plan Tuesday evening, but it will not win the 60 votes required to move forward.
At least two Democratic senators are leaning toward voting against the procedural vote, and several more are possible "no" votes. It’s unclear if any Republicans will vote for the president’s proposal.
The acknowledgement that the White House is now interested in breaking up the bill follows a Monday meeting between Obama and Senate Democratic leaders.
The White House official said the president and the leaders are “clearly on the same page going forward.”
Officials said they will work with the Senate “to sequence out which components and when” to move them after the bill is defeated Tuesday night.
One possibility is joining the president’s proposal for a national infrastructure bank with a GOP proposal to allow multinational corporations to return profits to the U.S. at a low tax rate. The repatriation proposal has won some Democratic backing, though the White House has been cool to the idea.
The White House has hammered Republicans for refusing to pass the jobs bill and hopes to portray the GOP as intransigent. But its case could be complicated by Democratic holdouts.
The White House officials emphasized Tuesday that the bill will have the “vast majority of Democrats” backing it, and that moving forward, the White House will work with individual senators like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to enlist support for the aspects of the bill they can support.
“This [vote] will be the first act in a long-term play here over the next couple of months,” the official said.
And officials warned that Republican presidential candidates who follow the lead of Congress, which officials blasted for having no plan for the economic short term, will be painted with the same brush as a GOP Congress that voted against the jobs bill at a critical time.
“The Republican nominee is going to have the Republican Congress on its back like a huge weight,” the official said.
The White House said that the Republican presidential candidates are unknown right now, and they will be painted with the same brush as the do-nothing GOP Congress.
“People don't know who Mitt Romney or Rick Perry is," the official said. “It's a blank slate. By next year, they will.”
One official joked that “one of the benefits of Rick Perry, despite his issues,” is that he “boxed Romney in” on proposals like the House Republican cut, cap and balance plan that would reduce spending and balance the budget.
White House officials believe that public opinion has shifted significantly in favor of the president's jobs bill, and they emphasized that Obama is the only person in Washington who has a plan to boost the economy in the short-term.
“The Republicans in Congress have shown themselves somewhat impervious to public opinion,” one official said.