With Obama jobs bill near dead, White House plans fall push for passage

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 3, 2011 

WASHINGTON — With Republicans killing prospects for a comprehensive jobs bill, the White House is planning a fall strategy it hopes will wrangle enough GOP votes for a package some economists say would add as many as 1.9 million jobs to a sagging economy — at least temporarily.

The White House's new 60-day legislative-political strategy is designed to pressure Republicans in Obama-friendly districts to support his proposed $447 billion jobs bill and accompanying tax increases — or face blame at home heading into the 2012 election year.

To drive the strategy, Obama will go on the road more this fall, presumably to many of those Republican districts, rather than sitting at a negotiating table in Washington as he did this summer for weeks with congressional Republicans.

The need for a Plan B was evident Monday as House Republicans said flatly that they won't approve the entire jobs bill as Obama has demanded.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters the entire package is dead in the House. The measure includes extension and expansion of a one-year payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment benefits, and cash for public works projects.

"The president continues to say, 'Pass my bill in its entirety,'" Cantor said. "The outset, the all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable."

Obama responded by asking anew for a vote on the entire plan by the end of October. "It's been several weeks now since I sent up the American Jobs Act," Obama said. "I want it back. I'm ready to sign it."

There is no chance of that, and the White House knows it.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to marshal all of its Democrats let alone the added Republicans it would need to pass the bill, and the Democrats in the House couldn't pass it unless they could lure away a bloc of Republicans.

Thus, senior administration officials outlined their plan to use October and November to bear down on 61 House Republicans from districts that voted for Obama in 2008, 14 of which also voted for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. They'll also focus on some Senate Republicans.

The White House hopes to isolate the members, threatening to drive a wedge between them and their national party leadership.

In a good-cop, bad-cop approach, the strategy will at first stress the local benefits of the jobs bill, such as local bridge or highway work as Obama talked about during a recent visit to Ohio.

Backing that up, it then would follow with the threat of blaming recalcitrant Republicans not just for failing to pass a bill to help boost the economy, but also for failing to vote for the package that would extend tax cuts and jobless benefits.

Nationally, the White House will argue that failure to act would mean tax increases for 102 million Americans on Jan. 1, and the cutoff of unemployment checks for millions more.

Locally, it will be armed with lists showing precisely how many people would face tax increases or the loss of jobless benefits in each district or state.

Administration officials did not lay out the president's travel plans for the next 60 days. But the Democratic campaign officials identified the 61 Republican House districts in such states as California, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

The White House strategy assumes that Obama's 2008 victory in those districts signals his enduring appeal there. Administration officials say Obama's past win in those districts means there are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents in those districts, voters who could be drawn back to the polls with Obama once again on the ballot in 2012.

However, Republicans could argue that their wins, particularly by the freshmen who won their seats in the anti-Obama landslide of 2010, makes them closer to the will of the people — and immune to Obama's political pressure.

Obama travels Tuesday to Texas, but not to one of the two districts held by Republicans that the White House considers vulnerable. Instead, Obama will visit the district of Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who is co-chairman of the congressional "supercommittee" weighing ways to cut the federal budget deficit.

Although Majority Leader Cantor declared Monday that the president's jobs bill is dead as a package, insiders believe it's possible Congress still could enact parts of it. Obama would sign individual parts, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday, though he would press Republicans to explain why they wouldn't pass other parts.

Some of those parts also could help boost jobs, at least temporarily.

Economist Mark Zandi, who estimated the entire package would create 1.9 million jobs in 2012, said that extending the payroll tax cut alone would create 750,000 jobs.

"Certainly it's part of the discussion," Cantor said of the payroll tax cut. Beyond that, he signaled no interest in taking on anything else from Obama's jobs bill and instead urged the president to work with Republicans on their jobs proposals.

"We've seen enough of the divide," Cantor said. "If nothing else, we should certainly focus on trying to put some wins on the board."

He listed a series of steps where he thought there was common ground, including repeal of a 3 percent withholding tax on government contracts, scheduled to take effect in 2013, and approval of trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.

List of 61 Republican members in districts carried by Obama in 2008

Dan Lungren (CA-03)

Elton Gallegly (CA-24)

Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (CA-25)

David Dreier (CA-26)

Ken Calvert (CA-44)

Mary Bono Mack (CA-45)

John Campbell (CA-48)

Brian Bilbray (CA-50)

Daniel Webster (FL-08)

Bill Young (FL-10)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18)

(a) Allen West (FL-22)

Peter Roskam (IL-06)

Joe Walsh (IL-08)

(a) Robert Dold (IL-10)

Adam Kinzinger (IL-11)

Judy Biggert (IL-13)

Randy Hultgren (IL-14)

Donald A. Manzullo (IL-16)

(a) Bobby Schilling (IL-17)

Tom Latham (IA-04)

Kevin Yoder (KS-03)

Dan Benishek (MI-01)

Dave Camp (MI-04)

Fred Upton (MI-06)

Tim Walberg (MI-07)

Mike Rogers (MI-08)

Thad McCotter (MI-11)

Erik Paulsen (MN-03)

(a) Chip Cravaack (MN-08)

Lee Terry (NE-02)

Joe Heck (NV-03)

Frank Guinta (NH-01)

(a) Charles Bass (NH-02)

Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)

Jon Runyan (NJ-03)

Leonard Lance (NJ-07)

Nan Hayworth (NY-19)

Chris Gibson (NY-20)

Richard L. Hanna (NY-24)

(a) Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25)

Renee Ellmers (NC-02)

Steve Chabot (OH-01)

Patrick J. Tiberi (OH-12)

(a) Steve Stivers (OH-15)

(a) Jim Gerlach (PA-06)

(a) Pat Meehan (PA-07)

(a) Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)

(a) Lou Barletta (PA-11)

(a) Charles Dent (PA-15)

Quico Canseco (TX-23)

Blake Farenthold (TX-27)

Scott Rigell (VA-02)

Randy Forbes (VA-04)

Frank Wolf (VA-10)

Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03)

(a) Dave Reichert (WA-08)

Paul Ryan (WI-01)

Thomas E. Petri (WI-06)

(a) Sean Duffy (WI-07)

Reid Ribble (WI-08)

(a) District was also carried by John Kerry in 2004.

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