Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and the top Republican on the committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, unveiled a long-anticipated bipartisan jobs bill this morning but clearly they didn’t run their plan past the leadership — or at least didn’t gain leadership support before they proceeded. This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his opposition to the bill, effectively killing it. “The message is so watered down, with people wanting other things in this big package that we’re going to have to come back and finish that the week we get back,” Reid said, adding that he planned to proceed with a leaner Democratic measure.
Reid challenged Republicans to vote against his legislation. “Republicans are going to have to make a choice,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We have a bipartisan bill that will create jobs, according to the CBO, immediately; not when the design’s done, not when the planning’s done, not when they hire people, but immediately.”
How much bipartisan support there is for Reid’s bill, which will include Build America Bonds, small business tax relief and a one-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund, remains to be seen. Grassley’s office charged that Reid had “pulled the rug out” from a bipartisan agreement in order to “go partisan and blame Republicans while Senator Grassley and others were trying to find common ground on solutions to help get the economy back on track and people back to work,” said Jill Kozeny, a Grassley spokeswoman.
The Baucus/Grassley measure had been greeted warmly by Republicans. “The lion’s share of this proposal is based on the very conservative idea of tax cuts to spur job creation,” praised Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican.
But Democrats were skeptical that Baucus had given too much away in terms of tax cuts to Republicans. “It looks more like a tax bill than a jobs bill to me,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. “What the Democratic Caucus is going to put on the floor is something that’s more focused on job creation than on tax breaks.”
Reid told reporters he had the blessing of the caucus to turn away from the Baucus/Grassley measure. But his move is an enormous gamble now that Democrats no longer have a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority. “I don’t think the Republicans are going to vote for it,” Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, told Politico. “What have they voted for?”
Any one else feeling a little health care deja vu?