The Simple Way to Pass the Jobs Bill with "Bipartisan" Support

"Once upon a time, you dressed so fine, threw a bum a dime, didn't you?"--Bob Dylan

A bipartisan jobs bill can be passed, quickly, without any need to talk, plead, cajole or make deals with Republicans or recalcitrant Democrats. That is, if the Democratic leadership had even a scintilla of guile that they have yet to display.

Nearly a year ago James Boyce and I suggested ("Will John Boehner Really Say 'Thanks But No Thanks' To Stimulus Funds?", February 19, 2009) that Republicans in the House who had voted against the stimulus plan be challenged on the House floor to declare whether they wanted any of the money in their districts -- with the Democratic majority willing to support whatever their decision was. It was a way, after the vote, of calling their bluff.

Since that time, as the President pointed out at their conference meeting, the very same people who voted against it, showed up at ribbon cutting ceremonies in their districts basking in the glory of a project and jobs that the stimulus bill had funded.

This time, why wait until after the bill -- bruised, revised and made less effective, begging for votes -- makes it through Congress? Instead, write into the bill that the money for jobs, and the tax credits, everything possible that can be geographically limited, will only be spent in districts whose Members of Congress support it, and only in states where at least one of their Senators voted for it.

Of course there will be wailing and moaning by Members and Senators whose lies and hypocrisy will, finally, be exposed. It will be couched in "buying votes" language.

Really? Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put a hold on all President Obama's appointees unless he gets $45B to projects in his state. Another Republican Senator held up one of the President's nominees until he got money for a building in his state (Kansas). They all put earmarks for their districts and states into bills.

Moreover, the Republicans claim that these jobs bills do not work anyhow. So, one could retort, why the wailing and moaning...according to these people, no jobs are lost since the programs do not work.

With these provisions, the jobs bill can pass quickly -- indeed, the Senate can use reconciliation so there will not even be a filibuster. The wailing and moaning will continue for a week, and then the media will move to another story. In the meantime the jobs bill will pass, and Republicans (and Democrats) who vote against it will have to answer to their states and districts as to why none of the jobs are coming to them.

Or, more likely, "bipartisanship" shall magically flower ahead of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.



The Right Side of History

The President went this morning to meet with members of the Democratic caucus of the verge of a historic vote. Thankfully, he seems to have abandoned his bi-partisan baggage.

From the Huffington Post:

In a final push to get health care reform through the House of Representatives, President Barack Obama warned lawmakers on Saturday that a vote against the legislation would not immunize them from Republican attacks.

The president, according multiple attendees, played the role of political prognosticator during his roughly 30 minute address before Democratic caucus members on Capitol Hill. Addressing, implicitly, those conservative Democrats who are worried about voting for a nearly trillion dollar health care overhaul, he insisted that they would not be safe from partisan attacks even if they opposed the bill.

"He certainly talked about the politics and he said that the Republicans want us to fail and no one should feel if they as a Democrat helped us to fail that they would be [free of their attacks]," said Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

"None of you can expect the Republicans not to go after you if you vote against this bill," Waxman continued, channeling the president. "They want this bill to go down for their own partisan reasons."

Another high-ranking Democratic Hill staffer briefed on the meeting put it this way: "Obama's main message was that the GOP won't go any easier on you if you vote against the bill. It's a tough vote, yes, but they're going to take heat either way."

While politics took up much of the discussion, policy took up very little. Obama, according to several lawmakers, did not talk about the public option or the controversial amendment to make abortion restrictions much tighter. He discussed, primarily, the momentous nature of the vote and the need for the party to be on history's right side.

"This is the moment," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) That this is what we all went into politics for, that this was a historic moment, that seven presidents have tried to pass health care and haven't done it, and that this was a moment like civil rights or Social Security or Medicare."

In particular, Obama singled out Rep. John Dingell -- the longest serving member of the House -- who, on Saturday, presided over chamber for first time since the 1965 House vote to pass Medicare.

"He thanked all the chairs [of the committees involved in developing the health care bill]," said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y). "He thanked all leadership and he mentioned specifically John Dingell."

The day of reckoning is at hand. For sixty years, the GOP has sought to delay this hour. As the President said, we are on the right side of history.

There's more...

Lindsay Graham Supports Kerry's Climate Change Bill

John Kerry has done for climate change what Max Baucus was unable to do for health care: he has found bipartisan support.

Kerry and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) co-wrote an op-ed for today's New York Times in support of the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill:

We refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.

Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now -- with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

It's true that we come from different parts of the country and represent different constituencies and that we supported different presidential candidates in 2008. We even have different accents. But we speak with one voice in saying that the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world.

Say what you will about bipartisanship, but this is great news. With luck, John McCain and Lamar Alexander will follow suit. Climate change legislation must pass this year - this is the one issue where Jack Bauer's ticking time bomb actually exists. To pass a bill before that bomb goes off, we will need Republican votes - there is no budget reconciliation for the environment, but there are Democratic nay-saters. For every Evan Bayh, we will need a Lindsay Graham.

On a related note and in the interest of disclosure, I will be starting a part-time job with Repower Nebraska - the local affiliate of the climate change advocacy group Repower America - later this week. They won't be paying me any money, but I will be working there as part of another program (the Episcopal Service Corps) that does pay me. I will stick such a disclaimer after the jump on all future environmental posts.

There's more...

More Bipartisan Support for Obama on Healthcare

Markos, Josh and I have all written about this lately, but the decision by those on the far right of the Republican Party -- i.e. those in Congress -- to oppose President Obama on healthcare reform in near lock-step does not mean that the the plan does not enjoy bipartisan support. Whether it's Republican voters, a quarter of whom back a strong public option; former Republican Senate Majority Leaders, three of whom are backing reform to various degrees; GOP Governors, including California's Arnold Schwarzenegger; or an increasing number of former GOP cabinet secretaries, bipartisan support for healthcare reform continues to grow.

Earlier this week, former Republican Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson added his voice to the mix. And now, per First Read, Bush 41's HHS Secretary Louis W. Sullivan -- an M.D. -- is as well.

This is what bipartisanship looks like -- Republicans from the base on up to some in the current and former leadership coming out in favor of reform now. Don't let anyone, inside the Beltway or elsewhere, tell you otherwise.

There's more...

What Bipartisanship on Healthcare Means

Markos gets it right on Bill Frist's endorsement of healthcare reform:

And this speaks to a recurring theme of ours in the past few months -- "bipartisanship" doesn't necessarily mean getting Republican votes for the legislation, it's building support among all political factions around America. In polling, the public option consistently gets support from about a quarter of Republicans, and now we can add the former Senate majority leader, physician, and conservative stalwart Frist to that tally.

To flesh this out even more, bipartisanship on the issue of healthcare doesn't require that the hyper partisan Republicans in Congress -- and by and large that's who's left among within the sparse GOP ranks up on Capitol Hill -- support what President Obama is putting forward. Rather, bipartisanship means bringing Republicans into the coalition supporting healthcare reform. The President has already apparently done this with Bill Frist, who not even four years ago was one of the three or four highest ranking Republicans in the nation. He has also done it with the Republican base, a stunning one quarter of which supports a robust public option.

So while the small stub of what once was a significantly larger Republican caucus in Congress may be almost wholly unwilling to give even an inch on healthcare, a significant portion of Republicans around the country -- including some who not long ago were in the highest echelons of the party establishment -- are on board for the President's reform package.

There's more...


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