I guess the President is meeting with House Democrats at this hour to map out some kind of strategy on jobs and the economy. Regardless of the strategy, here’s what’s going to happen: there will be no jobs bills, and Republicans will bring the country to the verge of a government shutdown. Again.
On the jobs front, the Senate will try again with the Rebuild American Jobs Act this week, but again they expect defections on their side and none on the other side. So this will get filed away with a series of other jobs bills that didn’t pass thanks to a stone wall on the other side. Democrats are amping up the rhetoric against Republicans, claiming that they are allowing the country to suffer for political gain, but since Republicans are, well, gaining politically from their actions, they’re not likely to reverse course. As far as actual jobs measures, the President will be reduced to designating national monuments and similar actions that “create” a handful of jobs, by a very charitable definition.
When it comes down to the payroll tax cut extension as well as an extension of unemployment insurance, for a total price tag of close to $200 billion, this may get slightly interesting, but that will come toward the tail end of the year. Brian Beutler has a preview:
According to a top Senate Dem aide, Democrats probably won’t put the issue on the floor until later in the year, to increase the public’s sense of urgency about renewing both programs. And they hope, too, that negative press and public hostility about the Republicans’ continued patten of obstruction will make them more willing to deal on must-pass measures.
“The point of holding it back is to soften Republicans up before we get to that vote and get closer to the deadline,” the aide said.
But the fact is, Republicans have mastered the technique of using hard deadlines as leverage over Democrats. And if they follow suit now, Dems will probably have to negotiate new ways to pay for the plans without raising taxes.
Even before that, there’s the fact that Congress’ last continuing resolution to fund the government expires in just 17 days. The Senate actually went ahead and gave final passage to three annual appropriations bills stuck together in a “minibus” appropriation (the bills were for Agriculture, Transportation and Housing), but they are still at 1/3 of the total annual bills that need to be passed every year; the House is up to just 6 out of 12. So even with the Senate planning another minibus this week, there’s no way that the spending bills will be ready in time, meaning another continuing resolution.
And that means House Republicans have another hostage-taking event on their hands.
“As you know, there is longstanding precedent not to use appropriations bills to enact major changes in national policy, and the bills being reported from Appropriations subcommittees this year violate that precedent,” wrote Hoyer in a letter signed by 182 other Democrats. “While not all policy riders are objectionable, many of those included this year are not only controversial but blatantly partisan. Included riders would block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, roll back important clean air and clean water protections, and place new restrictions on women’s access to a full range of medical and health services, among others.”
If Boehner passes these bills with Republican votes alone, he sets up a major standoff with Senate Democrats, who will reject the spending bills, leading to another government shutdown standoff. Of course, all year a rump of extremely conservative Republicans, eager to slash significantly more money from federal programs, has thwarted Boehner, and forced him to pass legislation with House Democratic votes. If that dynamic plays out again, it will give Hoyer and his party plenty of leverage, and perhaps force Boehner to strip these riders out of the legislation.
Otherwise, it’s a repeat of last spring’s shutdown fight, only this time Democrats aren’t nearly as willing to get rolled by the GOP.
That shutdown fight is pretty close to being upon us, just two weeks from Friday.