Yesterday, Eric Cantor pronounced Obama’s jobs bill dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. This led many to write the American Jobs Act’s obituary. And understandably so: House Republicans don’t seem to have any interest in passing the major provisions in the bill, and even some Senate Democrats seem queasy about embracing aspects of it.
But it appears that Obama won’t let the jobs bill die without a fight. In a speech in Dallas today, he will directly call out Eric Cantor in some of his most aggressive language yet, demanding a Congressional vote on the bill so Americans can know exactly where every Member stands. From the prepared remarks:
Yesterday, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now, he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. He won’t even give it a vote.
Well I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn’t believe in. Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?
Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas, look Kim Russell in the eye, and tell her why she doesn’t deserve to get a paycheck again. Come tell her students why they don’t deserve to have their teacher back.
Come tell Dallas construction workers why they should be sitting home instead of fixing our bridges and our schools.
Come tell the small business owners and workers in this community why you’d rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle-class.
And if you won’t do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where every Member of Congress stands.
As I’ve noted before, this is the script the professional left could have written. If liberals wanted to see Obama barnstorming the country in support of his jobs bill and calling out Republicans by name for blocking progress, well, that’s exactly what he’s doing. The message Obama is hoping to send today is: No surrender.
Yesterday, Cantor ruled out supporting the whole American Jobs Act, claiming: “I think at this point Washington has become so dysfunctional that we’ve got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make.” Today, Obama will try to cast Cantor as the face of that Washington dysfunction.
Will it work? At this point, it all depends on what “work” means. Obama can’t possibly believe Republicans will ever agree to support his jobs bill, or even its major provisions. After all, Cantor also said yesterday that the House would move forward on areas where there is some agreement — trade agreements and a tax break for government contractors — which amounts to a far more modest agenda than the one Obama is pushing for. But Obama does retain areas of leverage. As Ezra Klein notes, Obama can still refuse to sign anything the supercommittee produces without real action on jobs, effectively using the supercommittee trigger as leverage for his jobs bill.
It’s far more likely, though, that Obama and his team have concluded that nothing will force House Republicans to embrace his jobs plan, or even its major elements. The brutal truth is that there is little to no political incentive for Republicans to change course. As Republicans well know, Obama is in serious political trouble — even though Republicans are blocking provisions in the jobs bill that have strong majority support, it seems plausible that he’ll continue to bear the brunt of public anger over unemployment. The question is whether a sustained campaign to drive home to the American people who is blocking ambitious action on the economy — a campaign that Obama seems prepared to escalate today in a big way — can do anything to change that.