Jonathan Chait

The House GOP Is Making Sense

By

House Republicans mock the Dems via email:

Even close watchers of recent efforts by Democrats to forge a jobs bill may be confused as to what is going on. After months of proposals, counter-proposals, endorsements, and renunciations, it still remains unclear what exactly Democrats believe is the answer to job creation. In an effort to fully understand the dysfunction Democrats have displayed recently, we thought you might enjoy this summary:

1)       Obama Throws Something Out There - Back in December, Obama outlines his plan to spur job creation in a high profile speech at the Brookings Institution.

“In a speech on Tuesday, Mr. Obama outlined proposals intended to promote job creation. They included incentives for small businesses to hire more workers, additional money to build roads and other construction projects, and rebates for homeowners who invest in energy-saving weatherizing improvements.” (NYT, 12/8/09)

2)       Pelosi Goes Her Own Way - One week later, the House passes a $174 billion second helping of stimulus that largely ignores the President’s plan.

“[C]onspicuously absent from the plan were President Barack Obama's recently announced proposals to give Social Security recipients $250 payments, a tax credit for small businesses that create jobs and a program awarding tax credits to people who make their homes more energy efficient.” (AP, 12/16/09)

3)       Obama Continues His Ignored Pitch - In January, with a plan still not enacted, or even introduced in the Senate, the President again outlines job creation ideas in his State of the Union and on the stump, including a $5,000 tax credit for hiring new employees.

“Acting quickly on a pledge in his State of the Union address, President Obama today will unveil a proposal to give a tax credit of up to $5,000 to companies for every new employee they add to their payrolls this year.” (LA Times, 1/29/10)

4)       Pelosi Says No - On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi swats down the President’s idea of a tax credit for hiring.

“At a closed-door White House session, Pelosi expressed skepticism over an administration proposal to offer tax breaks to businesses that create new jobs… The White House session with congressional leaders was supposed to be a step toward bipartisanship, with a focus on jobs. But Pelosi made it clear that there's disagreement, even among Democrats.” (Politico, 2/9/10)

5)       Bipartisanship Gets a Shot - After weeks of negotiations, Senate Democrats and Republicans unveil a bipartisan bill, quickly praised by the White House.

“The $85 billion package -- which includes a payroll tax break for employers hiring new workers along with a blend of tax credits, infrastructure spending and measures to extend expiring legislation -- is the first in what Democratic leaders say will be a series of job-creation measures the Senate will address in 2010. The bill also represents a break from recent partisan history in the chamber, where the majority and minority have been loathe to collaborate on any significant legislation.” (Washington Post, 2/11/10)

6)       Harry Reid is Having None of It - After hours of deliberation on the measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejects bipartisanship and pulls the rug out from under the bill, leaving Senators of both parties and the While House baffled.

“[A]s Baucus, Grassley and President Barack Obama were preparing to celebrate a rare moment of bipartisan Kumbaya on Thursday, Reid stunned a meeting of Senate Democrats by announcing he was scrapping Baucus-Grassley, replacing it with a much cheaper, more narrowly crafted, $15 billion version.” (Politico, 2/12/10)

7)       What’s next? Who knows, but stay tuned as the Democrat dysfunction surely draws out.  The NYT editorial board, of all people, may have put it best with their headline yesterday:

“How Not to Write a Jobs Bill” (NYT, 2/11/10)

This is fair. It's also a reminder to Democrats that "showing independence" is a highly overrated strategy both in policy and political terms. You just end up with an impression of dysfunction and disarray. Matthew Yglesias makes the point succinctly:

The smart move, from Day 1 of the Obama administration to Day 380 of the Obama has been to just do what Obama wants unless you genuinely feel that Obama wants you to do something that outrages our conscience, in which case the smart thing to do is to say “no.” This business of getting into dickering and bargaining and screwing around has been both substantively and politically destructive. If congress had committed itself to expeditiously enacting administration proposals on stimulus, on health care, on climate, and on financial regulatory reform the economy would be in better shape, Obama would be more popular, and congressional Democrats would be more popular. Plus, substantive issues about health care, climate, and financial regulation would have been addressed.

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