Defections by Senate Dems hamper Obama’s message on jobs

Defections by Senate Dems hamper Obama’s message on jobs

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.

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Obama has been lambasting the politics of Capitol Hill, and some say a few stray Democratic votes will prevent that message from resonating with voters in 2012.

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.



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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 FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP MORE (Minn.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganTillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll Tillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll North Carolina businessman will challenge Tillis in GOP primary MORE (N.C.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Ending the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean MORE (N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' MORE (Minn.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (Colo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterManchin eyes Senate exit Manchin eyes Senate exit Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (Mont.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE (Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment 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 BegichFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough MORE (D-Alaska) and Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm 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 McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund 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.”

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Democrats had hoped to crack the Republican unity by seeking a vote on a scaled-back version of Obama’s measure. But centrist GOP Sens. Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year MORE (Ill.) rejected it.

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 BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE (R-Ohio) to congratulate him on the passage of the trade pacts, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump 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.