President Obama to Focus on Jobs Bill Until End of Year, or Passage, Whichever Comes First

Expect to hear a lot about the president’s American Jobs Act from now until the end of the year, or until it passes, whichever comes first.

“My expectation is that  now that we’re in the month of October, that we will schedule a vote before the end of this month,” President Obama told reporters today as he prepared to meet with his Cabinet. “I’ll be talking to Sen. Reid, McConnell, as well as Speaker Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, and insisting that we have a vote on this bill.

The president urged Republicans to spell out which proposals in the $447 billion jobs bill they are willing to support and to clarify why they may object to others.

“We’ve been hearing from Republicans that there are some proposals that they’re interested in,” he said. “And if there are aspects of the bill that they don’t like, they should tell us what it is that they’re not willing to go for, they should tell us what it is that they’re prepared to see move forward.”

Speaking not for attribution, senior administration officials provided a basic outline of the president’s message from now until the end of the year: PASS THE JOBS BILL. And they will use all the political pressure they can muster to accomplish that task. Other messages to accompany the president’s message: “Where’s THEIR plan?”   focused on any opponents of the plan. And: “The president is the only one with a concrete plan that would have an immediate impact on the economy.”

In December, the president will be “in a position of tremendous political leverage against” opponents of the bill, senior administration officials said, given that if Congress doesn’t act to extend the payroll tax cut – which is in the jobs bill – the taxes on 150 million Americans would go up. Plus, unemployment insurance extensions, which are also part of the bill, will expire. Do Republicans really want to be responsible for that happening? officials asked.

Despite skepticism about the plan voiced by some Senate Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jim Webb of Virginia – senior administration officials say they believe “96 percent of the Democratic caucus is supportive of it.”

Officials acknowledge that some of the provisions to pay for the bill may need to be changed to win that support – repealing the oil and gas company subsidies will likely need to be scrapped to garner the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for example,  but in the end they feel that only a couple Senate Democrats would vote against the final bill, which they expect to be voted on before the Senate this month.

Thus, the message to voters will be that all that’s needed is “a handful of Senate Republicans and a couple dozen House Republicans” to pass the bill.

Given that there are more than 50 House Republicans representing congressional districts that President Obama won in 2008, senior administration officials believe there will be pressure on those Republicans to have done something for jobs by the end of the year. Even if President Obama doesn’t win in 2012, he will carry many of those congressional districts, officials said.

The message is not just about jobs, it’s about ending the D.C. dysfunction, officials said. After the debt ceiling fight, one senior administration official said, “people are wondering: Is there anything we can do?” The president’s message, he said, will be “very clearly there’s something we can do.

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing Congress debate this bill, pass it, get it to my desk, so we can start putting hundreds of thousands and millions of Americans back to work,” the president said today.

-Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce

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