It has been nearly a month since President Barack Obama presented the American Jobs Act.
The nearly $450 billion proposal is designed to help jump start the economy. But it appears that with the divided Congress it will be impossible for Obama to gain the necessary support in either chamber.
In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor believes the bill is dead. Cantor told reporters, “I think at this point Washington has become so dysfunctional that we’ve got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make.”
The bill does not appear to be doing much better in the Senate. In fact, it’s not even at the top of the docket.
Instead, the Senate plans to focus on a Chinese currency manipulation bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will introduce the jobs bill later in October but it is not expected to pass. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin admitted that it is unlikely that Democrats have the 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. Reid voiced his disgust by saying he hoped Republicans would stop “rooting for our economy to fail for the sake of politics and help Democrats put this nation back to work.”
Meanwhile, Americans have been becoming increasingly frustrated with the 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and the partisanship that currently dominates Washington. The Wall Street protests that have spread across the state and the nation are rooted in economic concerns.
Still, Obama is ambitious about the bill. In addition to national commercials advocating the legislation, he is traveling the country trying to persuade Americans to convince Congress to pass the bill.
From Ohio to California, Obama has been visiting depressed economies and important swing states preaching his jobs bill.
The president visited House Republican Jeb Henslarling’s Texas district on Tuesday. Henslarling is the co-chairman of a House “supercommitte” dedicated to exploring ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. Those visits have been putting some pressure on Congress to support the bill.
Obama continued that pressure by calling out Republicans on Saturday in his weekly radio address. “Are they against giving tax cuts to virtually every American worker and small business in America?” In response, Cantor argued that Obama’s “all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable.”
If Obama cannot convince Congress to pass the complete bill, he is prepared to work on piecemeal legislation.
Obama has called for Republicans to “tell us what it is they [Republicans] are not willing to go for, they should tell us what it is they are prepared to see move forward.”
Incremental legislation could still yield potential economic benefits. Mark Zandi, a prominent economist who estimated the bill would produce 1.9 million jobs, said that just passing the payroll tax cut could create 750,000 jobs.
Cantor was a little more optimistic about cooperation on that portion of the bill, claiming that “certainly it’s part of the discussion.” However, it is unclear exactly when and if that portion of the bill will be advanced as piecemeal legislation.
What’s most alarming for the Democratic Party is the disconnect between Obama and the Senate.
The economy is going to be the number one factor in determining Obama’s chances of re-election.
He has clearly made this jobs bill his primary focus. But if he is having difficulty with the side of Congress the Democrats control, it will be very difficult for the bill to pass.