The White House on Friday said that the move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to scrap a bipartisan jobs bill — much to the chagrin of the senators involved – was not contrary to the president’s new push for bipartisan cooperation.
The $85 billion bill had been worked on by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chair and ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
In a statement to ABC News, Hatch said that it "was surprising to see Leader Reid’s decision to abandon a bipartisan job creation bill since he was fully involved in the development of this compromise. To squander this opportunity to come together is partisan politics trumping everything else. This is not how you legislate in the United States Senate and demonstrates a tremendous arrogance of power by this Democrat majority."
Hatch added that furthermore, t"he President himself has said that he wants the partisan games to stop, calling on both parties to work together. Republicans have answered that call, and I hope the majority leader will answer the call as well."
After the four senators introduced their bill, the White House praised it as an example of what the president has been talking about in earnest ever since the election of Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., deprived Senate Democrats of their 60-vote supermajority, necessitating more bipartisan cooperation, as polls indicate majorities of the American people support.
“The President is gratified to see the Senate moving forward in a bipartisan manner on steps to help put Americans back to work,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement after the Baucus-Grassley bill was introduced on Thursday. “The American people want to see Washington put aside partisan differences and make progress on jobs.”
Gibbs said Thursday that President Obama was “hopeful that the draft language presented today will lead to a bipartisan Senate bill. The President looks forward to working with members from both parties on this bill and on the additional job creation measures he has identified, including incentives for energy efficiency investments and increased access to credit for small businesses."
But within hours of Gibbs releasing that statement, Reid shelved the bill after hearing from liberal and progressive Democrats on Thursday, who complained the bill was packed with measures having nothing to do with job creation inserted solely to win over Republican support.
“The message is so watered down, with people wanting other things in this big package, that we’re going to have to come back and finish that,” Reid told reporters after meeting with the Democratic caucus.
A Grassley spokeswoman, Jill Kozeny, said that “Sen. Reid’s announcement sends a message that he wants to go partisan and blame Republicans when Sen. Grassley and others were trying to find common ground. The majority leader pulled the rug out from work to build broad-based support for tax relief and other efforts to help the private sector recover from the economic crisis.”
On Friday, Gibbs denied that Reid’s move was contrary in any way to the president’s message of bipartisanship.
Isn't Reid’s scrapping the bipartisan effort contrary to the president’s message? Gibbs was asked.
“No,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs pointed out that Reid had also announced said that after their President’s Day break next week, Senators would have the opportunity to vote on a $50 billion bill that includes the Schumer-Hatch proposal to offer businesses an exemption from Social Security payroll taxes for every worker hired in 2010 that has been unemployed for at least 60 days. Other provisions will the extension of tax write-offs for certain capital expenditures, the creation of Build America Bonds , and extending highway and transit programs.
Said Gibbs: “many of these will be implemented and voted on and approved with strong bipartisan majorities.”
The White House spokesman said that there won’t be just “one piece of legislation that will encompass all of the ideas that members in the Senate or even the president have for strengthening our economy and creating a better environment for hiring. That will probably take many forms. We've never thought that it was going to go through in one package.”
He also said that since the “centerpiece for job creation in the bipartisan legislation was the Schumer-Hatch small-business hiring tax cut,” which Reid has retained as a proposal that will be brought before the Senate, the Majority Leader was keeping in the spirit of bipartisanship.
Asked if what Reid did was “a hardball political tactic,” Gibbs said, “I just don't see it.”