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After GOP Blocks Obama Jobs Plan, Senate Dems Turn to Piecemeal Approach

Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Wednesday that after progress on President Obama’s jobs bill was blocked Tuesday, Democrats will introduce the jobs plan piece-by-piece in the hopes of finding provisions that Republicans will support.

Senate Republicans, joined by two Democrats, were able to deny Democrats the 60 votes needed to start debate on the jobs bill Wednesday evening. The bill includes a payroll tax cut extension, funding for infrastructure and aid to state governments — and brings with it a $447 billion price tag. Senate Democrats wanted to pay for the measure with a surtax on income over $1 million.

On Wednesday Schumer rejected the idea that development was a setback for the Democrats politically because it allows them to try to blame Republicans for blocking spending that would increase jobs.

“This is one more step as part of our plan, which is basically first to focus on jobs and the economy like a laser….and to show that we want to change the dynamic on jobs and the economy and Republicans are blocking it, and if there was ever needed a clear proof, we had a majority of Democrats … despite the diversity of our caucus, many people up for election in red states voted for it,” Schumer told reporters during a press briefing at the think tank Third Way.

Moody’s economist Mark Zandi estimates the plan would have created 1.9 million jobs and reduced unemployment by a percentage point. You can see more reactions from economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal here and by Bloomberg here.

While President Obama originally demanded that Congress consider his jobs package as a whole, he is now open to a piecemeal approach. As Americans continue to be frustrated by a sluggish economy and an unemployment hovering at around 9.1 percent, President Obama’s reelection hopes could hinge on whether or not the economy improves in the next year.

The president echoed Schumer in comments he made to the American Latino Heritage Forum Wednesday.

“A Republican minority got together as a group and blocked this jobs bill from passing the Senate,” Mr. Obama said. “We will keep organizing and we will keep pressuring and we will keep voting until this Congress finally meets its responsibilities.”

Schumer said the next step was to see if Republicans will block the individual pieces of the plan.

“We are going to divide it into different pieces and put them before the Senate and see if our Republican colleagues continue to block piece after piece after piece. We hope they won’t. The jobs bill was put together in a way to garner Republican support, most of the major provisions in it are supportive of things Republicans have been for in the past,” Schumer said. “We are going to focus on this and focus on this and focus on this.”

While Democrats can set up votes on whatever they want in the Senate, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, leads the House — and it is unclear what common ground can be found with the Republican agenda, which focuses on decreasing regulation and taxes.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Boehner praised the fact that the House and Senate are likely to pass this week three pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

“Nearly a month ago, House Republicans outlined for the president areas of common agreement that we could work together. And the fact is Republicans have a plan – our Plan for America’s Job Creators – that we outlined back in May, and we have been working since May to enact the ideas outlined in this proposal. We’re going to continue to work with the president in order to create a better environment. Not everything the president outlined is something that we agree with; certainly not everything that we’ve outlined is something the president would agree with. But our job on behalf of the American people is to find common ground and to do our best for them, and we will continue to do that,” Boehner said.

Where that common ground might be remains to be seen. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday claimed that President Obama, aside from agreement on the free trade measures, wanted gridlock so he could blame Republicans.

“The fact of the matter is, if President Obama were willing to work with us on more bipartisan legislation like this, nobody would even be talking about a dysfunctional Congress. There wouldn’t be any reason to,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “But, as we all know, that doesn’t fit in with the president’s reelection strategy. The White House has made it clear that the President is praying for gridlock, so he has somebody – besides himself — to point the finger at next November,” McConnell said.

As of now, it doesn’t seem likely that both sides will be able to come together on much else beyond the trade agreements. And both sides, as made clear by Schumer and McConnell, will likely look to blame the other for the gridlock heading into the 2012 election campaign with a shaky economy.

File photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

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