As the president in Texas urged Congress to vote on his jobs bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw the Senate a curveball on Tuesday by trying to do just that.
“I agree with the president, I think he’s entitled to a vote on his jobs bill,” the Republican leader said on the Senate floor as he tried to force an immediate vote on the American Jobs Act by attaching it to unrelated legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused.
McConnell’s move was a bit of Senate theater intended to draw attention to Democrats’ division over President Obama’s bill and Reid’s refusal to take it up “right away,” as the president has urged at rally after rally for weeks.
Democratic leaders have acknowledged they don’t yet have the votes to pass the bill, and Reid said Tuesday that he expected the Senate to amend it in order to win Democratic support. Some Senate Democrats have concerns with the way the president proposed to pay for his package, Reid acknowledged Tuesday, adding that his caucus was working on a new set of funding proposals. Reid promised a vote before the Senate recess at the end of the month.
“Right away is relative term,” he said.
The fight over when -- and in what form -- the jobs bill will come up in Congress has certainly posed a messaging challenge for Democrats. Even as Reid has defended his decision to take up other bills first, including legislation dealing with China currency manipulation and a set of trade deals, Democrats on the other side of the Capitol continued to clamor for quick action.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer on Tuesday tried to blame Republicans for the holdup.
“The best information I have is there will be no jobs bill on the floor today, no jobs bill on the floor tomorrow, no jobs bill on the floor on Thursday. Nor will there be any hearings on the jobs bill is my understanding,” he said. “Although the Republicans have said there are things in the jobs bill they could support, there is nothing on the schedule to indicate that those are going to move. A delay should not be an option.”
Leader in the Republican-led House has said it will not consider the legislation as a whole, but may take it up in separate pieces.
For his part, Reid has his own political card to play as the pressure mounts in the job fight. In responding to McConnell’s call for an immediate vote, he instead offered to move to debate on the bill immediately. Such a move would require Republicans to agree not to filibuster the legislation. This time McConnell demurred.
“That’s something he and I can discuss as we decide to move forward with Senate business,” McConnell said.