ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Everybody’s talking jobs. Not everybody has to be happy about it.
The dueling jobs events Thursday — the White House’s early afternoon jobs summit, and House Republicans’ late morning economic roundtable — highlight yet another political divide, one that has Republicans optimistic about their chances in 2010.
Don’t look now, but congressional Republicans have begun to develop a united and broad message on the economy. Yes, this is far easier to do when you don’t have to govern, but that doesn’t mean it’s politically insignificant.
The GOP job message ties just about all the big Washington issues together — from health care and stimulus spending, to deficits and card check — with little disagreement.
Democrats’ economic message, meanwhile, is driving the party apart — from health care and stimulus spending, to Ben Bernanke’s future and how to pay for the Afghanistan surge. (What does it say that another stimulus can’t even be called a “stimulus”?)
The Democrats’ argument about jobs continues to be that the White House actions to date have done what they’re supposed to do — but that it’s getting close to the time to do more.
The president is taking heat over spending too much and doing too little. Now the focus turns to what more can be done — so long as it doesn’t cost too much.
President Obama speaks at the opening session of the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum at the White House, at 1:30 pm ET. He’ll be back at 3:45 pm for closing remarks.
“As the economy has turned around and we’re beginning to see growth — as the Gross National Product has improved — we still have an unemployment rate that is far too high,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told ABC’s Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” Thursday. The day is about finding “new fresh ideas,” she said, including “legislation, if necessary.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, in advance of the GOP economic forum at the Capitol, starting at 11 am ET: “Later today, the White House will host a ‘jobs summit.’ But we’re going to discuss the issues that Washington Democrats won’t talk about… They just don’t get it. The American people are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ But all they are getting from Washington Democrats is more spending, more debt, and more policies that hurt small businesses.”
Where does the president go from here? “President Barack Obama is in a quandary over how to combat the country’s crippling joblessness, but he won’t lack for new ideas at Thursday’s White House jobs summit,” The Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr. reports. “The forum’s 130 guests plan to shower him and his staff with proposals — a few of which the administration may actually like. But for all the theater of the event, Mr. Obama has limited leverage to try to spur job growth, with interest rates already at rock bottom and federal deficits soaring.”
What good ideas are left that weren’t part of the three-quarters of a trillion dollars being spent in the stimulus package?
“A summit that will spur tangible actions or simply a glorified public-relations stunt?” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe and Karen Travers report. “That is the question as the White House on Thursday hosts a slew of the country’s best and brightest business executives, finance experts, economists, small business owners, and labor leaders to discuss ways to generate job creation.”
“Obama’s options are limited, as the administration already has signaled that it is unwilling to make any investments that would add significantly to the nation’s ballooning deficit,” Michael A. Fletcher and Ben Pershing report in The Washington Post. “It is far from clear that Obama will embrace all the ideas being promoted by his supporters in organized labor, who are making calls for direct funding of federal public works jobs, another round of aid to cash-strapped states and cities, and funding for infrastructure projects. Taken together, those initiatives could cost hundreds of billions of dollars — a tab Obama seems unwilling to shoulder.”
ABC’s Sunlen Miller has a list of confirmed attendees — with some of the biggest names in business and academia.
One sign of the concern — the president will be on the ground to tell the story when the new jobs numbers come out Friday: “Obama convenes a summit here on jobs, then flies Friday to Allentown, Pa., for the first in what will be periodic listening tours on the economy. The goal is to develop new spending and tax proposals to help many of the nation’s nearly 16 million unemployed people find work in 2010,” USA Today’s Richard Wolf reports.
Frustration on the Hill — really only in one of the parties: “Congressional Democrats are steaming that their White House counterparts aren’t doing more to help them tackle soaring unemployment,” Roll Call’s Tory Newmyer and Emily Pierce report. “Leadership sources said the White House has made clear it would rather kick off legislative action around President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in a month — a delay dismissed out of hand by Democratic lawmakers facing mounting heat from back home about the 10.2 percent unemployment rate.”
(And look who’s not coming to the White House: “Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), co-chairman of the Democratic Congressional Task Force on Job Creation, said it was ‘inexcusable’ that the White House had left Members of Congress out of the event. Likewise, Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said she was ‘surprised to see no Members were invited.’ “)
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis., to Time’s Jay Newton-Small: “It’s like shouting out into outer space, nothing’s coming back from the other side of the Hill, nothing’s coming back from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” he laments.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., speaking for a restless Congressional Black Caucus, to The Hill’s Silla Brush: “We have not been forceful enough in our efforts to protect the most vulnerable of our population. … We can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street.”
Plus, some stimulus angst: “Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), the chairman of a new, bipartisan Congressional Jobs Now! Caucus, said that he and his colleagues have ‘enormous dissatisfaction’ with the stimulus and the $700 billion bailout for banks that was approved in 2008,” The Hill’s Walter Alarkon reports.
Stirring more stimulus angst: “As struggling communities around the country wait for more help from the $787 billion stimulus package, one region is already basking in its largess: the government-contractor nexus that is metropolitan Washington,” Alec MacGillis reports in The Washington Post. “Reports from stimulus recipients show that a sizable sum has gone to federal contractors in the Washington area who are helping implement the initiative — in effect, they are being paid a hefty slice of the money to help spend the rest of it.”
A sign of even more angst: On the eve of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s re-nomination hearing Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced Wednesday he’s putting a hold on the nomination: “The American people want a new direction on Wall Street and at the Fed. They do not want as chairman someone who has been part of the problem and who has been responsible for many of the enormous difficulties that we are now experiencing. It’s time for a change at the Fed.”
Enter Mitt Romney, with a 10-point plan on the economy: “Like other presidents before him, Barack Obama inherited a recession. But unlike them, he has made it worse, not better,” the former governor, R-Mass., writes in a USA Today op-ed. “The 10% unemployment crisis hangs like an albatross around President Obama’s neck. Eventually, as with every recession and recovery, the economy will improve and jobs will be created, but those who were unnecessarily unemployed due to the president’s faulty economic program will not forget. In order to most rapidly re-employ all America ns and to speed a strong recovery, the president must change course. If he does not, Republicans will bring a change of their own to Washington in the 2010 elections.”
Newt Gingrich, who is holding his own series of job summits around the country: “As the Obama Administration convenes with the so-called ‘experts’ in Washington, how many in the White House have actually created a job?”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is going to the White House with a five-point plan — and a call for a financial transaction tax: “Extend the lifeline for jobless workers. … Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems. … Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services. … Fund jobs in our communities. … Put TARP funds to work for Main Street.”
From the other side: “If the White House and Big Labor’s allies on Capitol Hill are truly concerned with job creation and economic development, they can send a clear and unambiguous message to small businesses by opposing the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act,” Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, said in a statement Thursday.
On Afghanistan — a lukewarm reaction to a strategy, but the political support is where it needs to be for the White House:”President Barack Obama appears to have secured what President George W. Bush couldn’t: bipartisan support for an unpopular and faltering war,” per the AP’s Anne Flaherty. “Despite expressing an uneasiness about the details, lawmakers are poised to back Obama’s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan after getting assurances that some soldiers and Marines will begin withdrawing in July 2011.”
“Anxious Democrats show little appetite for seriously blocking President Barack Obama’s new war strategy for Afghanistan and appear to be looking for ways instead to bridge their differences with the White House before funding is debated next year,” Politico’s David Rogers reports.
Karl Rove, in his Wall Street Journal column: “Fortunately, the antiwar left has little power to stop the president from making good on his commitments. Notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s vote against funding the war in Afghanistan in May 2007, the White House can win a battle over war funding by standing with a coalition of victory-centered Republicans and Democrats who don’t want their president embarrassed. Only a failure of presidential nerve or an unwillingness to make further midcourse corrections as the need arises will keep Mr. Obama from achieving the goals he has spelled out.”
From (mostly) Democrats — a push for an up-or-down vote they’re not going to get: “I mean, this is a big deal. You know, we are enlarging our military footprint, and I think members of Congress have a role here; we should debate this. He should submit a supplemental request to Congress, we should debate it, vote up or down on it,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said Wednesday on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line.”
But what’s July 2011 really mean? “President Obama’s 18-month deadline for starting the Afghanistan pullout didn’t survive its first 18 hours,” Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column. “Wednesday’s testimony made clear that while the troop increase is solid, the pullout plans are mushy. In that sense, Obama gave the Republican opposition substantially more than he gave the liberals in his party. He showed a style of pragmatic leadership, and a willingness to defy his political base, that his predecessor never displayed. It was, depending on your perspective, either brave or foolhardy — the sort of defiance a renegade like [Sen. Joe] Lieberman could appreciate.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to ABC’s Charlie Gibson: “It would be a responsible drawdown based on conditions on the ground. July 2011 is the beginning of a process…. We want to light a fire under [the Afghan government].”
If it all looks familiar… “In crafting his new Afghanistan policy, President Obama borrowed liberally from an unlikely source: the playbook of George W. Bush,” the Los Angeles Times’ Julian E. Barnes, Ned Parker and Laura King report.
“Obama’s surge-and-wind-down strategy is both gutsy and politically risky,” E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his column.
“Talk about big bets. President Obama’s speech at West Point was a careful blend of escalation and limitation, but it boiled down to wagering his presidency on Afghan President Hamid Karzai — a corrupt and hapless autocrat halfway around the world,” Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter writes.
More to come Sunday, on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” with guests Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Gates, and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.: “With 30,000 more troops headed to Afghanistan we’ll ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the President’s plan to bring the war to an end,” Stephanopoulos blogs. “Can he keep to his promise of bringing troops home in 2011? Eight years into the war, can the administration avert a quagmire and will the Karzai government rise to the challenge? Clinton and Gates, together on ‘This Week.’ ” Speaking of feeling like the Bush years — a constitutional crisis over the White House party-crashers?
“White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers will not talk to a Congressional committee investigating the security breach when a Virginia couple crashed a State Dinner last week,” McClatchy’s Steven Thomma reports.
“Based on the separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to ABC’s Jake Tapper, on “GMA” Thursday: “I just think they’re afraid to take the heat. They are hiding behind the separation of powers argument, which is not a real argument.”
Valerie Jarrett, on “GMA”: “We think we’ve really answered the questions fully… It doesn’t go against [transparency]… It’s important to have a balance, and have the White House staff able to have confidential conversations with the president and his team without appearing before Congress.”
Losing more star power, at Thursday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing (though a subpoena will almost certainly be next): “They therefore respectfully decline to testify,” Michaele and Tareq Salahi said in a statement, this time turning down an actual invitation.
A policy shift: “After reviewing our actions, it is clear that the White House did not do everything we could have done to assist the United States Secret Service in ensuring that only invited guests enter the complex,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina wrote in a memo, per ABC’s Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller. “White House staff were walking back and forth outside between the check points helping guests and were available to the Secret Service throughout the evening, but clearly we can do more, and we will do more.”
Why the health care debate is going nowhere fast — but slowly: Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., is out with something of a filibusterer’s guide to the Senate, per ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf. “Attached to his letter is a concise two page memo outlining how an individual Senator can gum up the legislative works, forcing votes and delay before a bill is brought to the floor, while it is there, and before it goes to conference with the House,” Wolf reports.
The Senate voting starts — for real this time — on Thursday. (For the record, it took three days for senators to decide how and when to start voting on amendments.)
New narrative — from Time’s Karen Tumulty: “What about President Obama’s pledge to pass a measure that reins in the larger forces driving up health care costs? Or his vow that a reformed system would deliver more-efficient care, with better results for patients? That’s where the legislation could fall well short of the promises.”
In Massachusetts — no more debates in the Senate race, and still one front-runner: “For three months, the political class in Massachusetts has watched and waited, expecting one of her opponents to go aggressively after Attorney General Martha Coakley, who, by every measure, is the front-runner in the abbreviated campaign for the US Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy,” Brian C. Mooney writes in The Boston Globe. “With six days until the special four-candidate Democratic primary and the third and final televised debate now history, they are still waiting.”
What did you miss this decade? The most lasting political legacy: partisanship, from hanging chads to tea bags. The decade’s politics in review, at ABCNews.com.
“A couple days later, after he raised a few million dollars off of it, I was thinking, ‘why didn’t I say that?’ ” — Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., per Politico, saying he wished he’d beaten Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., to the “you lie” punch.
“Absolutely and I’m telling you I am.” — Rory Reid, D-Nev., gubernatorial candidate and Sen. Harry Reid’s son, asked if he was taking a pass on a question about whether he’d have Nevada opt out of a new “public option” health care plan.
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