Snow Job: Dems Scramble for Ideas Amid New Economic Woes

Feb 5, 2010 7:27am

By Rick Klein If you pivot enough, soon enough you’re standing right where you were before. The Obama White House is facing another one of those days — a jittery stock market, an uncertain Congress, and jobs numbers set to land on Washington with a wallop that might match the snow. (At least the demon sheep is safely ensconced in California — but check behind the trees.) And so we’ll hear of top priorities and bold action and singular focuses and jobs as job one and … stop us if you’ve heard any of this before. If it’s all started to blur together, that’s because there really aren’t any good, new options out there. The Senate jobs bill isn’t actually a bill at this point — in part because it’s not clear what else can even be done. If it’s not clear what should be done, it’s even less clear what could get a touch of support from the other side. “Democratic and Republican senators struggled to hammer out a modest bipartisan job-creation package Thursday, reflecting how a turbulent political atmosphere is snarling even legislation with popular support,” Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt write in The Wall Street Journal. “The halting cross-party cooperation reflects intense public pressure for the parties to develop legislation designed to tackle the nation's high unemployment. But even if a jobs bill passes in the Senate next week, it faces skepticism in the House, which passed its own comprehensive jobs package in December.” Of harmonies: “President Barack Obama is running into resistance from congressional Democrats over several key economic proposals — blunting the party’s ability to send a clear message to middle-class voters that Democrats feel their pain,” Politico’s Eamon Javers and Victoria McGrane report. “All of this paints a picture of a governing party that faces uncertainty about the way forward on the economy, especially in the wake of a shattering defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race last month.” There’s that number again: The Dow is flirting with the 10,000 threshold again, 11 years after it first crossed it. Prepping for a rough Friday: “When the Labor Department releases the January unemployment report Friday, it will also update its estimate of jobs lost in the year that ended in March 2009. The number is expected to rise by roughly 800,000, raising the number of jobs shed during the recession to around 8 million,” the AP’s Christopher S. Rugaber writes.  New York Post headline: “Owe, no! Debt ceiling soars as Dow sinks.” Think it will all be over anytime soon? “President Obama doesn’t think unemployment within the next decade will return to the relatively low level it was in 2007 when he launched his presidential campaign, at least according to supplemental documents to his Fiscal Year 2011 budget,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. The president’s day, per ABC’s Sunlen Miller: “In the afternoon the President will travel to Lanham, Maryland where he will visit a small business and meet with small business owners. The President will deliver remarks on job creation and small business initiatives.” “The President is proposing that Congress pass two temporary expansions of critical Small Business Administration (SBA) lending programs. These are both legislative proposals designed to help small businesses through what continues to be a difficult period in credit markets,” a White House official says. Enter Senate Democrats, scheduling a Monday vote on a jobs bill, but “nobody has yet written one down,” ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports. “And reporters at [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid’s press conference, called to announce a new ‘jobs agenda,’ were given an impressive-looking packet with a cover sheet that reads ‘Democratic Jobs Agenda’ with the sub-headline ‘Putting America Back to Work.’ ” “Mr. Reid did not say how much the Democrats’ jobs legislation would cost, how lawmakers planned to pay for it, or even how many jobs he hoped to create,” David M. Herszenhorn writes in The New York Times. “The ideas that Democrats offered Thursday did not include the centerpiece of the administration's jobs plan: a $30 billion program to help small banks make loans to small businesses. Some senators are reluctant to end restrictions on banks that take federal money,” Ylan Q. Mui and Steven Mufson write in The Washington Post. It’s a strategy: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats say they intend to roll out their effort to address unemployment in a series of bills this year — instead of one giant measure — and the House of Representatives plans to start work next week on a single slice of health care legislation that has stalled in Congress,” USA Today’s John Fritze writes. As for the prospects of cooperation, in our new (Brown) era: “The last stimulus bill didn’t create one new job and in some states the money that was actually released hasn’t even been used yet,” Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said at his first press conference after being sworn in, per ABC’s Jonathan Karl. (Poor Joe Biden.) More on Brown’s debut: “He said he planned to return to Massachusetts next week to retrieve his trademark pickup truck,” The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser and Lisa Wangsness report. Does this count as a plan? A year into the administration? The president said Thursday night, at a DNC fundraiser: “What I’d like to do is have a meeting where I’m sitting with the Republicans, sitting with the Democrats. Sitting with health care experts. And let’s just go through these bills. Their ideas, our ideas, let’s walk thought them in a methodical way so the American people can see and compare. What makes the most sense. And then I think we’ve got to go ahead and move forward on a vote.” (How long before a Republican takes him up on the offer — going page by page, by page by page?) Don’t miss: “Sen. Al Franken ripped into White House senior adviser David Axelrod this week during a tense, closed-door session with Senate Democrats,” Politico’s Andy Barr and Manu Raju report. “Five sources who were in the room tell POLITICO that Franken criticized Axelrod for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and the other big bills it wants Congress to enact.”   Discipline, later: Pay-go is set to become law, but: “The new requirement comes with lots of exemptions, however, and it's telling that it's part of legislation to increase the nation's debt limit by $1.9 trillion, an adjustment that's necessary because budget deficits are expected to reach $1.56 trillion this fiscal year and $1.27 trillion next year,” McClatchy’s David Lightman reports. Coming Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” with Jake Tapper: “We'll sit down for an exclusive interview for Sunday's THIS WEEK with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. We'll talk about jobs, the stimulus package, a jobs bill, Wall Street bailout funds, and much more.” Which gathering would you rather be at? As the DNC holds its winter meeting in Washington through the weekend, the Tea Party Convention is underway in Nashville. Is there anyone in office who shouldn’t be just a little bit scared?

America “put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House … Barack Hussein Obama,” the opening speaker, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., told activists Thursday, per ABC’s Steven Portnoy and John Berman. And: “Thank God John McCain lost the election.” Energy into action? “Grass-roots activism — the door-knocking, phone-banking and online networking that was the hallmark of President Obama's campaign — will be the focus of the three-day convention,” the Los Angeles Times’ Kathleen Hennessey reports. Wait — are they Democrats? “Most political conventions are designed to showcase party unity, but the National Tea Party convention where Sarah Palin is to speak Saturday is sending a very different message,” USA Today’s Kathy Kiely reports. “The squabbles that erupted over this weekend's Nashville gathering reflect larger challenges facing a hot political phenomenon.” And it’s Palin vs. Rush — sort of. Limbaugh: “Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult's taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards.” Palin spokeswoman: “Governor Palin believes crude and demeaning name calling at the expense of others is disrespectful.” Keeping some liberal faith: “To me — and I’m not alone in this — the sudden outbreak of deficit hysteria brings back memories of the groupthink that took hold during the run-up to the Iraq war,” Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times column. “And fear-mongering on the deficit may end up doing as much harm as the fear-mongering on weapons of mass destruction.” Will it all come down to … Joe Biden? “The vice president needs to step up to his constitutional duty as presiding officer of the Senate and begin overturning those age-old parliamentary precedents that now allow partisan obstructionists to eviscerate all semblance of majority rule,” Steven Pearlstein writes in his Washington Post column. “Until that's done, Republicans will have no incentive to agree to any real compromises, Democrats will continue trying to pass legislation without them, and everyone will come out a loser.” National Journal’s Ron Brownstein breaks down the demographics of a polarized nation: “In the struggle for House control, the two parties thus face tests with contrasting timeframes. As racial minorities and better-educated whites, or both, become a larger share of the population in more districts, the long-run challenge for Republicans is to compete across a demographically broader range of districts than they do now. Democrats face a more immediate trial: Avoiding a repeat of the huge wave, particularly among working-class whites, that carried Republicans to control of the House in 1994.” You knew Reagan would be relevant again… “While Republicans suffered losses in the congressional elections of 1982, the economy began to improve by 1983. That allowed Reagan to argue that things were moving in the right direction,” Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla writes. “With the unemployment rate now at 10 percent and prospects dimming that the number will markedly improve by November, Obama and Democratic lawmakers are highlighting what they say are positive trends and warning against a return to the policies of President George W. Bush.” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.: “What was good for the Gipper can be good for Obama.” Attorney General Eric Holder talks to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer: “If Giuliani was still the U.S. Attorney in New York, my guess is that, by now, I would already have gotten ten phone calls from him telling me why these cases needed to be tried not only in civilian court but at Foley Square,” Holder said.  On Dick Cheney: “On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice.” And on the demon sheep — wait, there’s more? Owning it: “We can expect to see equally if not more shocking Web-based ads or videos coming from our campaign moving forward,” Julie Soderlund, a spokeswoman for Carly Fiorina’s Senate campaign, tells The Daily Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin. Attention, Palin-tologists: “Nicolle Wallace, the former White House communications director who famously clashed with Sarah Palin while working as a senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign, has signed on to write a novel that ‘follows the first female President of the United States, Charlotte Kramer, and her staff as they take on dangerous threats from abroad and within her very own cabinet.’ ”

The Kicker: “That's the purpose, being shocking, edgy, to produce something that people are talking about and something relatively inexpensive to produce.” — Julie Soderlund, spokeswoman for Carly Fiorina’s Senate campaign.  “We're happy to let Carly Fiorina talk to California voters about demon sheep.” — James Fisfis, spokesman for Tom Campbell, the target of the “demon sheep” ad.
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