The Senate’s top leaders sparred openly on the chamber floor Tuesday after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to introduce President Obama’s jobs bill, an effort that was immediately blocked by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
In an unanticipated move, McConnell announced after both parties’ weekly caucus luncheons Tuesday afternoon that he would introduce the $447 billion jobs package as an amendment to a China currency measure currently on the Senate floor.
“As you know, there have been numerous calls by the president and some of his assistants that we move forward on what he calls his ‘jobs package’ and what we call ‘Stimulus 2,’” McConnell said at a news conference outside the Senate chamber. “In fact, the president just today either will say or has already said, ‘At least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where every member of Congress stands.’ Therefore, I intend to offer the president’s stimulus bill as soon as we reconvene.”
Reid immediately objected to McConnell’s introduction of the measure and called the move “nothing more than a political stunt.”
“What a charade we’ve got going on here,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “This is senseless, and it’s not fair bringing it up in this form.”
He added that he would introduce the jobs plan later this month and predicted that “a majority of Democrats will support the president’s jobs bill.”
The move by McConnell comes as some Democrats have hesitated to support the jobs package introduced by Obama last month.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a radio interview last week that Democrats don’t have enough votes to pass the measure “at the moment” but that the jobs bill could be amended to secure the support of reluctant members, such as those from oil-producing states who disagree with Obama’s proposal to close tax loopholes for large oil and gas companies.
Asked at a news conference earlier Tuesday whether he believed a re-worked version of the jobs plan would receive unanimous Democratic support, Reid declined to say.
“Well, you know, you can’t trap me into ‘unanimous,’” he said. “As I’ve indicated here before, to get all my senators to agree that I can take a break and go to the bathroom, I can’t quite get that. So, we’ll get most everyone. There could be – I don’t know who – but there could be some that don’t support it, but it would be a rare situation.”
He also said that Senate Democrats who are opposed to the jobs bill have expressed reservations not about the substance of the measure, but rather Obama’s proposal to pay for the package by increasing taxes on the wealthy.
“There are a wide range of things that we’re looking at because the only objections that I’ve heard from my caucus on the president’s jobs bill is dealing with the pay-fors, so we’re resolving that issue as we speak. ... The only way the president’s jobs bill will fail will be if Republicans don’t support it,” Reid said.
The White House on Tuesday signaled that it was open to suggestions from congressional Democrats when it comes to paying for the $447 billion jobs package.
“The President’s goal is to grow the economy, put more money in the pockets of the middle class, and put more Americans back to work, including teachers, construction workers and veterans,” White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “As we have said from the beginning, we offered a balanced way to pay for the American Jobs Act, but if Congress has a better idea that ensures that everyone pays their fair share, we’re open to it.”
Staff writer Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.