NPR logo Jobs Bill Gives Democrats, GOP Another Chance At Gridlock Blame Game

Jobs Bill Gives Democrats, GOP Another Chance At Gridlock Blame Game

President Obama at the Interior Department in Washington, DC, October 12, 2011.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama at the Interior Department in Washington, DC, October 12, 2011.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Chant after me: This is what gridlockracy looks like.

It looks like a President Obama who can't get his latest stimulus package — the American Jobs Act — through Congress, the Senate having essentially blocked it Tuesday evening.

So on Wednesday the president repeated his threat to deconstruct the legislation into smaller chunks to force Senate Republicans to cast a slew of what he hopes would be unpopular "no" votes Democrats could use against Republicans.

At a Latino heritage event Wednesday Obama said:

Now, a lot of folks in Washington and the media will look at last night's vote and say, well, that's it. Let's move on to the next fight. But I've got news for them: Not this time. Not with so many Americans out of work. Not with so many folks in your communities hurting. We will not take no for an answer. (Applause.)

We will keep organizing and we will keep pressuring and we will keep voting until this Congress finally meets its responsibilities and actually does something to put people back to work and improve the economy.

We'll give members of Congress a chance to vote on whether they think that we should keep teachers out of work — or put them back in the classroom where they belong, teaching our kids.

They'll get a chance to vote on whether they think that construction workers should stay idle while our roads and bridges are falling apart — or whether we should put these men and women back to work rebuilding America.

Of course, the president failed to mention that not just Republicans but some some Democrats resisted his jobs legislation.

Sen. Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat not running for re-election, said he would oppose the bill's final passage because it would increase the highest marginal tax rate on salaries earned by millionaires and billionaires but leave the capital gains tax rate at 15 percent.

In a statement, he said:

"I again emphasize my long-held belief that taxes should not be raised on wages or ordinary income. This legislation, if passed, should be paid for by other means such as raising capital gains or ending costly subsidies and tax loopholes."

Unlike Webb, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted against even allowing the legislation come to a vote.

Gridlockracy also looks like each side blaming the other for the political gridlock.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and Senate minority leader, accused Obama of fomenting it as part of his re-election master strategy.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday before a vote on three trade agreements that represented a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, McConnell said:

"The fact of the matter is, if President Obama were willing to work with us on more bipartisan legislation like this, nobody would even be talking about a dysfunctional Congress. There wouldn't be any reason to.

"But, as we all know, that doesn't fit in with the President's reelection strategy. The White House has made it clear that the President is praying for gridlock, so he has somebody – besides himself — to point the finger at next November.

"And it's a big mistake. The American people will not tolerate their own President putting politics ahead of working with Congress on the kind of bipartisan legislation we know both parties could agree on right now.

"So this morning, I'd like to repeat my call to the President to put the political playbook aside and to work with us instead on the kind of bipartisan job-creating legislation that the American people truly want.

McConnell, who has said publicly that a priority of his is to make Obama a one-term president, is suspected by many Democrats of orchestrating congressional gridlock to achieve that end.

McConnell's suspicions appear to be widely shared in Republican circles.

From a Roll Call piece (subscription required) by Steven Dennis:

Senate Republican aides speculated that the Democratic game plan — and Obama's hopes for re-election — lie in failing to get anything done so that he can run against the GOP.

"I'd be surprised if they didn't design everything to draw Republican opposition," one senior aide said, "no matter how small."

Another Roll Call piece, this one by David Drucker, suggested that may not be idle paranoia on the part of congressional Republicans.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who proposed raising the income level for higher taxes to pay for the jobs bill to $1 million from the $250,000 the president proposed, had breakfast with journalists Wednesday.

He told them Democrats would be campaigning against Republicans by hanging the phrase "Tea Party economics" on the GOP. An excerpt:

"The vote last night — we were very pleased with it. I was surprised with some newspapers saying 'setback,'" Schumer said. "This is one more step as part of our plan, which is basically, first to focus on jobs and the economy like a laser — we're in complete coordination with the White House on that — and to show that we want to change the dynamic on jobs and the economy and Republicans are blocking it."

In other words, gridlockracy.