Democratic defections and a united Republican front are hampering President Obama’s message on the economy.
Last week and again Thursday night, there were a couple Democratic defections on Obama’s jobs measure. And despite a veto threat from the White House, 10 Democrats voted for a GOP alternative.
The lack of a united front is complicating a key part of Obama’s reelection strategy of running against Washington, and Congress in particular.
Others claim that Democratic votes against Obama’s jobs bills will be cited repeatedly next year by Republicans, who are determined to show Obama has failed to lead.
The White House stresses that a large majority of Democrats are solidly behind their president.
“Let’s be clear. Ninety-five percent of Senate Democrats voted to put teachers and first responders back to work. Exactly 0 percent of Senate Republicans joined them,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told The Hill on Friday.
“The bill failed because Senate Republicans blocked it. Senate Republicans decided they would not ask millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more in order to put up to 400,000 teachers in our classrooms teaching our children.”
The Republican measure offered on the floor Thursday night won more votes than Obama’s proposal.
The GOP embraced a component of Obama’s jobs proposal eliminating the 3 percent withholding tax on federal contracts.
The administration favors the concept, but balked at the Republican offsets of unspecified spending cuts. The Office of Management and Budget added that if the bill were presented to the president with the offsets, his senior advisers would recommend a veto.
The threat did not sway some Democrats, who voted with the GOP. The 10 Democrats defections were: Sens. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAl Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (Minn.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (N.C.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict Failed drug vote points to bigger challenges for Democrats Overnight Defense & National Security — Blinken heads to the hot seat MORE (N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Seven takeaways from California's recall election Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate MORE (Minn.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetInterior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan Lawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals MORE (Colo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (Mont.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? Biden to talk Russia, anti-corruption with Ukraine's president Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos wages lawfare on NASA and SpaceX MORE (Fla.).
Of these senators, Franken, Klobuchar, McCaskill and Tester are co-sponsors of a similar measure offered by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). After the vote, Republicans noted that Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (D-Alaska) and Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (D-Ark.) are also co-sponsors of Brown’s bill, but voted no.
Begich's and Pryor’s offices did not comment for this article at press time.
The Republican alternative attracted 57 votes, falling three short of passing and collecting more support than the Democratic bill backed by Obama, which was rejected, 50-50.
Every Republican rejected the Obama-backed bill while Sens. Pryor, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson also voted no.
Last week, Tester and Ben Nelson voted no on advancing Obama’s comprehensive bill, and a couple others noted their opposition on the underlying legislation as they voted yes on the procedural motion.
Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally House to act on debt ceiling next week MORE (R-Ky.) said, “By adding poison pills to their own legislation, Democrats ensured that the only thing bipartisan about their bills — is the opposition.”
Following the roll call, a frustrated Obama said, “For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again. That’s unacceptable.”
The $35 billion Democratic bill was designed to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters in cash-strapped states. Most of the funding, $30 billion, would have gone to saving teaching jobs, with the rest of the money directed to first responders.
Vice President Biden on Wednesday visited Capitol Hill to hold a rally with Senate Democrats, ripping Republicans for protecting millionaires at the expense of the working class.
Republicans countered by accusing Senate Democratic leaders of playing politics and decried their effort to raise taxes in an ailing economy.
Some of the differences between the two parties reflect rival views on how best to help the economy. Democrats have focused on measures that could spur growth in jobs immediately through temporary tax and spending measures. Republicans have focused on permanent changes to the tax code and trade deals, which they believe could have a larger impact on the economy in the long run.
Despite the defections on the Democratic side, there are signs that Republicans are worried about Obama’s jobs message and his aggressive use of the bully pulpit. Contrary to this summer, during the heated debt-limit negotiations, GOP lawmakers have softened some of their rhetoric, noting they want to find common ground with the White House on Obama’s jobs bill.
For example, the House will vote next week on the 3 percent withholding rule. GOP leaders have pointed out that Obama included repealing this mandate in his jobs plan. However, House Republicans have refused to allow a vote on the president’s entire proposal — a fact that Obama has cited in speeches.
Obama and congressional Republicans worked this month to pass three long-stalled trade agreements, but the bipartisanship has not lingered.
After Obama called Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio) to congratulate him on the passage of the trade pacts, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE chastised him for suggesting Republicans don’t have a jobs plan, according to a readout of the testy 10-minute call released by the Speaker’s office.
Days later in North Carolina, Obama mocked Republicans for not approving his entire jobs proposal.
“Maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once,” Obama said during an address in Asheville, N.C.
“So we’re going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation,” Obama said earlier this week.