By Mike Lillis - 10/30/11 08:41 PM EDT
Following criticism from GOP leaders, House Democrats are rallying behind President Obama's $447 billion proposal to stimulate the economy and create jobs — even if it's not going anywhere.
More than 90 lower-chamber Democrats have officially endorsed the president's jobs bill in the past week – a stark jump over a short span that came after Democratic leaders welcomed members to sign on at the party's weekly caucus meeting last Tuesday.
The lack of official Democratic backing opened the Democrats to Republican charges that the president's signature economic proposal lacked support even within his own party. And GOP leaders didn't miss their chance to pounce.
"As of last week, the chief sponsor of the president’s bill put the bill in ‘by request,’ which does not indicate a wholehearted support of the bill,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters earlier this month in arguing that the package is not a serious one. "At the end of last week there weren’t any Democratic co-sponsors of the President’s bill.”
The change in tactics by the Democrats was designed to mute those GOP criticisms, though it also acts to highlight which members are not on board. Of the 14 House Democrats on the Cook Political Report's list of most competitive races, for instance, only two – Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) – have endorsed the president's jobs bill.
Members of the conservative-leaning Blue Dog Coalition have also shied away so far, with only three – Reps. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Boswell – signing on as cosponsors.
Introduced in September, Obama's plan would cut taxes by roughly $270 billion – much of it through a reduction in payroll taxes for workers and businesses – while providing $175 billion for schools, roads and other infrastructure projects. The proposal also includes funding for the unemployed, as well as money to help states keep teachers, firefighters and other first responders on their payrolls.
GOP leaders' have hammered the package as just another stimulus bill that would saddle the country with more debt without improving the economy, and Senate Republicans killed the measure in the upper chamber earlier this month.
Despite the Senate vote, House Democrats have continued to push GOP leaders to take up the package, although leaders in both chambers appear ready to cherry-pick certain individual provisions instead. Indeed, the House this week passed a bill scrapping a yet-to-be-installed 3 percent withholding rule on payments to government contractors – a measure supported by Obama.