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Jobs Bill Defeated Despite Presidential Push

Oct 11, 2011
Originally published on October 11, 2011 9:36 pm

Ever since President Obama proposed his $447 billion jobs bill in a joint address to Congress last month, he has been campaigning for it nonstop. He has whipped up crowds all across America who chant, "Pass this bill!"

It contains a variety of measures to fight unemployment — everything from tax breaks for businesses to extended benefits for the jobless. But despite the campaigning, Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to kill the measure. The final vote was 50-49.

Jonathan Cowan of the centrist Democratic group Third Way says that's no big deal — it was always a long shot.

"Whether or not the vote succeeds in the end isn't the crucial point for them politically," Cowan says. "The mere fact that there was a vote, they've shifted the conversation toward jobs, is what they needed."

It's true that Obama has succeeded in shifting the focus to job creation. But he failed to get this bill across the finish line. Even members of his own party jumped ship.

GOP: Bill A 'Second Stimulus'

On Tuesday morning, senior White House officials said this is just the first act in a long-term play. They brushed aside the dissent among Democrats and urged Americans instead to look at the Republicans, unanimously voting against job-creation measures.

Of course, Republicans don't believe this bill will create jobs.

"By proposing a second stimulus, Democrats are showing the American people that they have no new ideas for dealing with our jobs crisis," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor.

McConnell used the word "stimulus" roughly a dozen times in his 10-minute statement panning the bill known as the American Jobs Act.

"Everyone who votes for this second stimulus will have to answer a simple but important question: Why on earth would you support an approach that we already know will not work?" McConnell said.

In contrast, Obama has his own challenge, for people voting no.

"If you're voting no against this bill," he said, "look a Pittsburgh teacher in the eye and tell them just why they don't deserve to get a paycheck again — and, more importantly, be able to transmit all that knowledge to their kids."

At a union training facility in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the president accused Republicans of opposing consensus ideas just because the Obama White House supports them.

"It's not about giving Democrats or Republicans a win," he said. "It's about giving the American people who are hurting out there a win. It's about giving small businesses and entrepreneurs and construction workers a win."

Portioning Out The Job Creation Platter

The White House took a calculated risk by presenting this as one big job creation platter rather than smaller bite-size pieces that might pass more easily. It's a mix of tax cuts and new spending aimed at small businesses, veterans, the long-term unemployed, teachers, construction crews and more.

Lumping them all together helps Obama rail against a do-nothing Congress. But economist Linda Barrington, who runs Cornell's Institute for Compensation Studies, fears that the strategy could hurt the economy.

"I think we are at a point where confidence, if not reality, is teetering on the brink of 'Are we going to have a second wave of recession? Will this be a double dip?' " Barrington says.

Barrington says it's important to build consumer confidence right now, and Tuesday's vote could have the opposite effect.

"I think for the jobs act not to pass, it will only make people more anxious and more concerned about their own future and, therefore, may have a negative impact on confidence and spending," she says.

Whether this vote has an effect on the economy depends on what Congress does next. Democrats hope to break the proposals apart and consider them piece by piece. Those votes are expected next week at the earliest.

And it's not clear whether Congress will ultimately give Obama most, some or just a few of the items he's asking for.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

And I'm Guy Raz. President Obama flew to Pittsburgh today to push his jobs bill. It includes a variety of measures to fight unemployment - everything from tax breaks for businesses to extended benefits for the unemployed. But back here in Washington, the Senate has killed the president's proposal on a procedural vote. And as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports now, the next step is for the package to come back piece by piece.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Ever since President Obama proposed this bill in a joint address to Congress last month, he has been campaigning for it nonstop. He has whipped up crowds all across America, chanting, pass this bill.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Pass this bill. Pass this bill. Pass this bill.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They need to go and pass it.

SHAPIRO: Tonight the bill failed. Jonathan Cowan of the centrist Democratic group Third Way says, no big deal. It was always a long shot.

JONATHAN COWAN: Whether or not the vote succeeds in the end isn't the crucial point for them politically. The mere fact that there was a vote, they've shifted the conversation towards jobs, is what they needed.

SHAPIRO: It's true that President Obama has succeeded in shifting the focus to job creation, but he failed to get this bill across the finish line. Even members of his own party jumped ship. This morning, senior White House officials said this is just the first act in a long-term play. They brushed aside the dissent among Democrats and urged instead: look at the Republicans unanimously voting against job-creation measures. Of course, Republicans don't believe this bill will create jobs.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: By proposing a second stimulus, Democrats are showing the American people that they have no new ideas for dealing with our jobs crisis.

SHAPIRO: On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky used the word stimulus roughly a dozen times in his 10-minute statement panning the bill known as the American Jobs Act.

MCCONNELL: Everyone who votes for this second stimulus will have to answer a simple but important question: Why on earth would you support an approach that we already know will not work?

SHAPIRO: That's Senator McConnell's question for people voting yes. Here's President Obama's question for people voting no.

OBAMA: If you're voting no against this bill, then look a Pittsburgh teacher in the eye and tell them just why they don't deserve to get a paycheck again and, more importantly, be able to transmit all those - all that knowledge to their kids.

SHAPIRO: At a union training facility in Pittsburgh, the president accused Republicans of opposing consensus ideas just because the Obama White House supports them.

OBAMA: This is not about giving anybody a win. It's not about giving Democrats or Republicans a win. It's about giving the American people who are hurting out there a win.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It's about giving small businesses, entrepreneurs and construction workers a win.

SHAPIRO: The White House took a calculated risk by presenting this as one big job creation platter rather than smaller bite-sized pieces that might pass more easily. It's a mix of tax cuts and new spending aimed at small businesses, veterans, the long-term unemployed, teachers, construction crews and more. Lumping them all together helps Mr. Obama rail against a do-nothing Congress, but economist Linda Barrington fears that the strategy could hurt the economy. She runs Cornell's Institute for Compensation Studies.

LINDA BARRINGTON INSTITUTE FOR COMPENSATION STUDIES, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: I think we are at a point where confidence, if not reality, is teetering on the brink of are we going to have a second wave of recession? Will this be a double dip?

SHAPIRO: Barrington says it's important to build consumer confidence right now, and tonight's vote could have the opposite effect.

UNIVERSITY: I think for the jobs act not to pass, it will only make people more anxious and more concerned about their own future and, therefore, may have a negative impact on confidence in spending.

SHAPIRO: Whether this vote has an effect on the economy or not depends on what Congress does next. Democrats hope to break the proposals apart and consider them piece by piece. Those votes are expected next week at the earliest. And it's not clear whether Congress will ultimately give President Obama most, some or just a few of the items he's asking for.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.