Are Democrats Divided Over the Jobs Bill?

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JONATHAN COHN SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

Are Democrats Divided Over the Jobs Bill?

Today brings yet another story about disgruntled Democratic lawmakers complaining about President Obama's jobs bill. It's from the New York Times and quotes a series of Democrats, from both houses, complaining about various aspects of the proposal. 

Some of this complaining is obviously real and genuinely worrisome. Particularly when it comes to new taxes on corporations and the wealthy, Obama's proposed way of paying for his jobs bill, Democrats are all over the map -- albeit in some predictable ways. For example, Mary Landrieu doesn't like the idea of taxing oil companies, which makes sense given how many oil companies have operations or headquarters in her home state of Lousiana.

But Democratic sources in and around Capitol Hill say the press reports overstate the disunity. In fact, several emailed me last night, after I posted an item quoting a Politico story about Landrieu and other conservative Democratic senators raising objections to the bill. When I tried other sources, they were largely in agreement. "Nearly all Democrats in the Senate support the President’s jobs plan," one senior congressional aide told me. "Obviously members have their own preferences, and reporters are good at spinning those into conflict because that’s what sells copy." (Apparently House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi just echoed that sentiment in her weekly press conference.)

Staffers, like their bosses, always dismiss stories of dissension. And, again, the disagreement about the "payfors" (i.e., the taxes) is obviously a big deal. But the rest of Obama's proposal -- school construction money, payroll tax breaks, aid to the states -- really does seem popular, notwithstanding the familiar divisions within the Democratic caucus of each house. 

The Senate's Democrats are meeting later today. Reactions afterwards may be a good sign of what's really going on -- and how they intend to handle the issue going forward.

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posted in: jonathan cohn, politics, obama, the new york times, mary landrieu

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