Washington (CNN)–Senate Democratic leaders are increasingly anxious the persistently high unemployment rate poses a long-term threat to the economy, their constituents' well-being, and, consequently, their own political fortunes.
In a strategic shift beginning this week, designed to show their heightened concerns, Senate Democrats will try to put new focus on job creation, so it is on equal footing with deficit reduction, which Republicans have successfully championed. They are promising to do it through a series of high profile bills this summer – some to cut taxes, others to increase spending – aimed solely at job creation.
"This Congress convened in January with a single mandate from the American people: create jobs," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, on the Senate floor Monday.
Reid and other Democratic leaders are weighing a series of bills they think will put Washington's attention back on jobs and, they think, prove that Republicans are more interested in reducing the deficit than creating jobs.
The focus on deficit and debt reduction has been intense because of the talks Vice President Biden is leading to reach an agreement that would reduce the deficit while at the same time raising the country's debt ceiling. In explaining the Democrats' new focus, a top Senate Democratic leadership aide, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss the strategy, said, "We feel there is mood shift. Increasingly, editorials and op-eds are saying it's good to get the deficit under control, but when did we forget about job creation?"
At the top of the Democrats' list is a proposal to extend a 2% payroll tax cut adopted last year to help put additional dollars in the pockets of workers and help stimulate the economy. Democrats are considering giving employers a similar 2% break on their portion of payroll taxes in an effort to spur hiring.
The approximately $200 billion bill is a "clear, concise, crisp proposal" to give a tax break to employers and lower the cost of hiring new people," the aide said.
Tax breaks like this are something Republicans have supported historically and if they don't in this case it will be evidence job creation is not the GOP's top concern, the Democratic aide said.
Last week, two top GOP leaders, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, said they oppose extending the payroll tax break because it didn't help reduce unemployment and the payroll taxes fund Social
Security and Medicare, which can't afford a continued reduction in resources.
Another bill Democrats are considering in their "Jobs First" initiative would boost road and bridge construction spending through a new "infrastructure bank" that would help states finance their big public works projects.
Democrats are also increasingly confident a bipartisan deal will be reached soon on a new highway funding bill that would pump billions more into good-paying infrastructure jobs.
On "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was asked if there was anything else the government could do to bring down unemployment besides cutting taxes and reducing the deficit.
"We need to quit what we've been doing. It's obvious that the stimulus, borrowing all that money and spending it basically on government employees, didn't do any good," he said.
To create jobs, McConnell said, the Obama administration has to stop over-regulating the private sector.
"They don't need to come to us for permission to rein in these regulators who are really at work across the American economy making it very, very difficult for businesses to function."
sorry guys but I'm sure the GOP wants to do little or nothing to help the employment situation, unless they get the WH in 2012. A better employment picture does not help the GOP AT ALL and they know it and with the price of gas coming slowly down, if the employment numbers go up in the next few months towards the election, having nothing else to run on the GOP is toast. And don't let the president start bringing more troops home...that might just seal it.
Republicans will never support it which will show once again that their interest lie with the business community and not the average working american.
I thought the repubs campaigned on JOBS JOBS JOBS during the prior election and now the Dems are pushing JOB legislation. So what is up with the repubs?
I love the Democrat's strategy. If Plan A doesn't work then it's time to move along to...more of Plan A?
We have been way way down this road of "Stimulate the economy from the bottom up with spending bills".
It is a dead end.
Why not go with fundamental economics? Reduce government spending, corporate taxes and unnecessary regulation so that it makes sense and is possible for companies to hire again? Go directly to the solution to the real problem without taking a detour through higher ineffective spending again. There are millions of unemployed people who deserve more than just the government playing politics again. They need results.
Well the Repubs didn't focus on Jobs they would rather focus on a women reproduction rights.......Maybe the Dems will focus on Jobs.
The Democrats' concrete proposals are a welcome relief from the tsunami of hot air the Republicans have been expelling in an effort to blow the political winds their way. The deficit can never be effectively attacked unless there is a significant economic recovery. And decent economist will tell you this. The deficit is simply an iconic statistic that allows right wing politicians to score political points when they point to it as the number one factor in the country's economic slump.
As you can see from McConnell's answers, the republicans are more interested in political games than in creating jobs. Republican's push for self-regulation for business has not worked in the past and it will not work in the future. It is time for republicans to focus on creating jobs and ending their obstructionism.
I'm an Independent and I want DEMS/GOP/TEA to focus on jobs. It will take both cuts and taxes to balance the budget. It will take ideology of Suppy AND Demand vs Trickle Down/Push Up only. Technology, Total Free Markets without enforced regulation, banks becoming mortgage lenders, Wall Street and derivitives, ease of outsourced jobs are why we have an economy melt-down. GOP is too focused on fighting Obama vs solutions, TEA don't want any taxes, and Dems couldn't agree on the color of sky or budget cuts. At this point I will vote for the person that stands up for the middle class and not the top 2% or corporations. I will vote for the party that does the same and includes increase in taxes and cuts, reform on banks/mortgage, reformed trade imbalance, and no more outsourced jobs or H1-B Visas. Whoever does anything else is taking a stand against the American citizen. The party of the Patriot will go down the middle road...otherwise they are too much on the fringes.
And what have the democraps been doing the last two years they had complete control?