Democrats try to pivot to jobs agenda

Senate Democrats tried to put the deficit issue behind them Tuesday and pivot to a job-creation agenda.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSenate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Senate Dems plan floor protest ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dem senator: Don't bet against McConnell on ObamaCare repeal MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters minutes after the debt-ceiling deal passed: “It is now time for Congress to get back to our regularly scheduled program, and that means jobs.”

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“With this debt-reduction package completed, the decks are now clear for a single-minded focus on jobs in September,” Schumer said. “We now have the chance to pivot away from budget battles to jobs. … The jobs issue won’t have to play second fiddle to the deficit issue anymore.”

Schumer said that for Democrats, job creation is their “strong suit.”

But with spending in handcuffs from the deal’s spending caps, Democrats are still figuring out what their jobs agenda will be. The ideas they have already put out were shot down Tuesday by Senate Republicans. 

Democrats had hoped to include economic stimulus in the debt-ceiling deal, but such measures were not included in the bill President Obama signed into law on Tuesday.

Democratic aides are bitter about that, and see little opportunity for extending unemployment insurance or the payroll tax holiday with the debt-ceiling train having left the station.

Obama on Tuesday asked lawmakers to focus on jobs when they return from the August recess.

"We need to begin by extending tax cuts for middle-class families so that you have more money in your paychecks next year. … And while we’re at it, we need to make sure that millions of workers who are still pounding the pavement looking for jobs to support their families are not denied needed unemployment benefits," Obama said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems face identity crisis Heller under siege, even before healthcare Charles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that the first jobs bill to move after the recess will be the patent reform legislation. He said that he will file cloture on that Tuesday so that the Senate can take up the bill immediately when the Senate convenes in September.

Reid and bill sponsor Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyEPA head faces skeptical senators on budget cuts A bipartisan consensus against 'big pharma' is growing in Congress Going national with automatic voter registration MORE (D-Vt.) said the bill, which speeds patent applications, is expected to create 200,000 jobs. Leahy said there is bipartisan agreement with the GOP to move the bill, but he could not identify any other bills with a chance of passage. 

Reid said that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusLawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda White House tax-reform push is ‘game changer,’ says ex-chairman MORE (D-Mont.) told him that he has identified a suitable source of funding to renew the major surface transportation authorization bill, set to expire on Sept. 30.  

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said that with the debt agreement in place, it is no longer possible to throw money at the economy and that it will be “very difficult” to find ways to pay for stimulating measures.  

Schumer and Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear storage plans MORE (D-Wash.) declined to comment on the specifics of what else is being examined. Murray said Democrats will be refining their jobs agenda over the August recess.

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Democrats will face high hurdles in passing an extension of unemployment insurance or a payroll tax holiday. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and GOP conference Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill Trump administration pays June ObamaCare subsidies to insurers Republicans and the lost promise of local control in education MORE (Tenn.) said there is no appetite for either.

Alexander does want to see extension of the research and development tax credit. He said he understands the House will immediately take up tax reform in September, and this would be a major contribution to jobs creation.

Moderate Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) also supports making the R&D tax credit permanent, but he would not say whether he could support extension of unemployment insurance.   

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: GOP divided over welfare cuts in budget | Lawmaker loses M on pharma stock he pitched | Yellen: No more financial crises in our lifetimes GOP chairman wants 'robust' tax reform process in the Senate Chaffetz calls for ,500 legislator housing stipend MORE (R-Utah) said there “may” be some appetite for the payroll tax holiday but that there is strong resistance to the unemployment insurance extension because it encourages the unemployed not to look for work.

Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinSenators urge Trump to do right thing with arms sales to Taiwan Dem senators urged Obama to take action on Russia before election Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel MORE (D-Md.) said making sure the appropriations bills focus on the right investments will be a key part of the jobs agenda, as will infrastructure.

But Republicans and some conservative Democrats have different ideas and want to continue cutting spending as a way to stimulate growth.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell on healthcare: 'It'll just take us a little bit longer' Overnight Healthcare: Senate delays ObamaCare vote past recess | Trump says GOP 'very close' to deal | Three more senators come out against bill Trump: Senate GOP 'very close' to agreement on health bill MORE (R-Ky.) said he is focused on reducing regulation and passing free trade agreements.

Asked how the differences can be overcome and jobs bills can be passed, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said, “I just don’t know.”