Partisan divisions prevent Congress from passing jobs bills

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 28, 2011 

WASHINGTON — After weeks of relentless presidential pressure and congressional votes and debate, the stalemate in Congress between Democrats and Republicans over jobs legislation shows no signs of easing.

Partisan politics and deep philosophical differences just can't be bridged.

"It truly is remarkable that even on parts of the president's package they can't come to an agreement," said Burdett Loomis, a professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

No end to the bickering is in sight.

The Senate will return Monday from a weeklong recess and is expected to debate President Barack Obama's plan to boost infrastructure spending. Republicans are likely to block the effort, since the money would come from higher taxes on millionaires.

Next week, too, the House of Representatives is scheduled to continue a weeks-long series of votes on smaller-scale jobs bills championed by Republicans. Democrats generally label the bills giveaways to special interests and the wealthy.

Obama, meanwhile, has been traveling the country demanding that Congress take action now on his $447 billion jobs plan, which he rolled out in grand style two months ago before a joint session of Congress.

His jobs package, which included lower payroll taxes, help for hiring teachers and emergency responders, and boosts in infrastructure spending, was blocked by a Senate vote earlier this month.

The House did pass one modest Obama-backed proposal this week, repealing a provision to withhold 3 percent of most government funds paid to private contractors, and chances of Senate passage are considered good. But other, more consequential pieces of the Obama plan are struggling.

The Senate blocked the teacher-responder aid, and prospects for the infrastructure initiative are not good.

The two parties appear unable to bridge their impasse.

"Trying to resolve the differences between the two parties is like mixing oil and water," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

Democrats believe that spending on education, job training and other programs is crucial to helping people develop job skills and find work at a time when the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent.

"If you're going to have entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, that innovation begins in the classroom, and that (illustrates) the importance of our educational investments," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

No, Republicans counter, borrowing more money at a time of mounting debt is no way to fix the economy.

"When it comes to jobs, the primary role of government is to create an environment in which Americans and American businesses can grow and flourish without the heavy hand of government on their backs," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The 2012 elections, now about a year away, underlie this debate. Democrats control 23 of the Senate seats that are up next year, and Republicans only 10. And while the GOP has a 242-192 House majority, public dissatisfaction with all incumbents gives Democrats hope that they can regain control.

In such an environment, compromise often isn't an asset.

"From payroll tax reductions to funding for first responders, proposals that look like they have legs simply don't get anywhere," Loomis said. "Partisanship is the most obvious answer (to why), and in this case I think the correct one."

Meanwhile, Republicans and the president will continue their public feuding.

The Senate, for instance, plans next week to consider the Rebuild America Jobs Act, an Obama initiative to provide $50 billion for road, rail and airport projects. It also would allow $10 billion to set up a "national infrastructure bank" that would help attract private money for a wide range of infrastructure programs.

To pay for the programs, Democrats want to impose a 0.7 percent surtax on annual incomes of more than $1 million, starting in 2013.

McConnell opposes that.

"It is time for government to help private-sector job creators," McConnell said, "instead of looking for ways to punish them."


White House jobs bill information


'Supercommittee' hears grim economic, budget outlook from CBO

Congress' 'supercommittee' meets in public; no deal in sight

In Virginia, Obama bashes GOP for blocking his jobs plan

For more McClatchy politics coverage visit Planet Washington

McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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