The fate of the America Jobs Act

On paper, tonight’s vote in the Senate should be one of the year’s biggest no-brainers.

In the midst of a jobs crisis and intense public demand for congressional action, senators will have a chance to weigh in on the American Jobs Act. Most Americans support its provisions; it enjoys strong support from economists; it includes ideas from both parties; and the CBO found it will even lower the deficit over the next decade. All told, the plan would likely add about 1.9 million jobs to an economy that desperately needs them. Opponents have simply run out of excuses.

What politician in his/her right mind is going to reject a sensible jobs bill when unemployment is still at crisis levels? Apparently, the answer is a majority in both the House and Senate.

The House, with a radicalized Republican majority, is almost certainly a lost cause anyway, but the goal has been to get a vote in the Senate first, where at least there’s an ostensible Democratic majority. Republicans, who’ve already effectively broken the institution, will filibuster the jobs bill. Why? Because they’re Republicans, and they don’t believe in giving legislation up-or-down votes.

But if the Democratic caucus sticks together, they can at least ensure that a majority of the Senate is on record supporting the bill. That’s not going to happen, either.

Democrats would need all 53 of their members to vote yes along with seven Republicans, and already three members of the Democratic caucus have said they will vote no. Sen. Joseph Manchin of West Virginia questions the effectiveness of the package, wondering whether we’ll get the bang from the buck. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., both don’t like the way Democratic leaders have proposed to pay for this bill with a new 5.6 percent surtax on any personal income over $1 million. They say that this is not the time to be raising taxes on anyone, including millionaires.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but these members certainly look like cowards. “This is not the time to be raising taxes on anyone”? The plan calls for millionaires and billionaires — and no one else — to pay a little more starting in 2013. Nelson and Lieberman are not illiterate; they surely know the basic details of the bill. But Nelson is afraid of losing next year, and Lieberman is, well, Lieberman, so both will reject a popular jobs bill — and a popular tax increase — during a jobs crisis.

Making matters slightly worse, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) will apparently be in her home state of New Hampshire tonight to pick up an award she’s won. She supports the American Jobs Act, but Shaheen apparently doesn’t intend to show up for work tonight.

Are there any Republicans willing to do the right thing? Even one moderate who may want to create some jobs? No.

As a result, the chances of the jobs bill even getting 50 votes has apparently disappeared.

Pollster Stanley Greenberg told Greg Sargent this morning that Dems who oppose the American Jobs Act are making a big mistake — it will not only hurt the party going into 2012, it will hurt these individual members’ standing with their own constituents.

Some Dems are panicky about 2012; I get that. But here’s a tip Democratic lawmakers may want to keep in mind: voters generally aren’t impressed when Dems vote against their own party’s popular ideas to create jobs.

For every voter — left or right — who’s inclined to blame President Obama for unemployment, the last several weeks have been illustrative. The president has done absolutely everything that could be asked of him — his White House crafted a serious plan; he sold it well to a joint session; he hit the road to present it to voters; and he’s used the kind of arguments the “professional left” has been urging him to make.

And yet, House Republicans are still extremists, Senate Republicans are both radical and obstructionist, and a few Senate Democrats are more comfortable cowering under the table in a fetal position, hoping the GOP isn’t too mean to them.

Obama, in other words, isn’t the problem.