Yesterday, after the President finished up his speech last night, House Republicans responded by signaling an openness to passing parts of Obama’s new jobs bill, while signaling disapproval of Obama’s vow to barnstorm the country to get the American Jobs Act passed in its current form.
“The message was: either accept my package as it is, or I will take it to the American people,” Eric Cantor said. “I would say that that’s the wrong approach.”
Today, the White House offered its answer: Sorry, we want the whole bill passed. Nothing less.
With the spin war over the speech now shifting to a phase where Republicans are telegraphing a desire to compromise, even as Obama hits the road to sell his whole plan to the American people, this exchange on MSNBC this morning between Chuck Todd and White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer struck me as important:
TODD: The bill gets sent to Congress next week. Are you guys assuming that it gets sort of piecemealed, that at the end of the day you’re going to get some of what you want but not all of what you want?
PFEIFFER: No, we’re not assuming that. The president said it 16 times, I’ll say it a 17th time today. He wants them to pass the American Jobs Act. That’s the piece of legislation he’s sending up. It’s a simple thing. Puts the Americans back to work and puts more money into the pockets of working families. Our belief is that everything in this bill is reasonable. Everything in the bill has bipartisan support. Everything will have an effect right now. And so we want them to pass it.
Now, in all likelihood the White House knows the odds are heavily against full passage and is only continuing to insist otherwise in order to stake out a tough negotiating stance. But even if that’s true, it’s noteworthy. It represents a different approach from the one we’ve seen in the past, in which the White House signals all too early in the process that it sees compromise as inevitable and even desirable, strengthening the hand of Republicans.
In the debt ceiling fight, the White House at first demanded a “clean” extension, only to quickly concede to the GOP demand that it be accompanied by spending cuts. In the days leading up to the construction of the Congressional deficit super-committee, Democrats immediately signaled an openness to negotiate on their core priorities, even as Republicans drew a hard line and said they wouldn’t budge on their principles.
But this time — for now, at least — the usual dynamic seems to be reversed. It’s Republicans who want to be seen signaling a desire to compromise at the outset, while Obama and White House are the one sinsisting they won’t budge — and are even prepared to take their case to the American people to prove it, whether Republicans like it or not.
To be sure, no one expects Obama’s jobs bill to pass in anything resembling its current form. But at a minimum, the White House does seem to be trying to strengthen its own leverage at the outset in a way we haven’t seen before. And in the end, leverage is the only thing that can force Congress to act. I don’t know how long this will last, but keep an eye on this dynamic — it could get interesting.