Sometime soon, most likely in mid-October, the Senate will take-up the American Jobs Act. As is the case with all contentious Senate business, this will involve a motion to invoke ‘cloture’, which is a fancy word that means that the Senate agrees to end debate over an issue and have an up or down simple-majority vote. The Democratic Caucus has 53 members, which means that, once cloture is successfully invoked, they can pass the bill if they remain united. Of course, the Democrats are not exactly united. Sen. Mary Landrieu if Louisiana opposes any reduction in subsidies for Big Oil. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia thinks raising taxes on anyone, even several years from now, is a dumb idea. And, even if the Senate were to pass some version of the American Jobs Act, it would still have to be merged with whatever bill John Boehner’s House of Representatives produced (assuming they produced anything at all).
It”s a very tall order to pass anything through our divided Congress, but the administration is serious about giving it an honest try. And there are some small signs of hope. After the president gave a speech calling for a half trillion dollars in stimulus funded by rich people paying their fair share, Boehner and Cantor said his plan “merits consideration.”
The Republicans can read the polls, and they know that they exhausted the electorate’s patience during the debate over the debt ceiling. That’s why they stopped obstructing the FAA extension. It’s also why the House Republicans did not attach anti-choice and anti-environment riders to their Continuing Resolution bill. The Republican leadership realizes that the public sees them as unproductive, overly ideological, and thoroughly unreasonable. They are very worried about how the public will react if they simply refuse to produce a jobs bill.
The American Jobs Act will prevent more teacher lay-offs and it focuses on infrastructure which will put construction workers back to work. Even Rep. Paul Ryan has conceded that infrastructure projects will create jobs. The proposed payroll holiday will give the average family approximately 1,500 extra dollars to spend, and the bill also has provisions for hiring veterans that will be hard to oppose. The bill has been carefully crafted so that includes many provisions that poll very well with the public, and Republican senators will not be very enthusiastic about simply killing the bill with a filibuster. This is especially true because they can pass the buck to the House where Boehner can take the blame for either killing it or stripping out some of its more popular provisions.
Boehner and Cantor probably know that they can’t simply kill the bill or they will lose the House. So, they’ll probably try to pass something that can be melded with a Senate bill. I should put an emphasis on ‘try’ because the House leadership has only theoretical control over their own caucus.
Here’s what I do know. The president is going all-in to try to pass a jobs bill. Progressive groups have signed on to help him with the push. He will be traveling the country for the next month to make the case for his bill. He hasn’t put this much effort into anything since the Affordable Care Act. We can sit on the sidelines or we can help the president make his case.
So, my advice is to get involved. Make the case to your friends and family through your social networks. Go find out what is going on in your community and volunteer to help. The Republicans have no good options on this. They can either get blamed for intransigence or they can give the president a win and actually do something that helps create some jobs. We have to make sure they pay the maximum price if they do the wrong thing.