A ‘significant’ jobs package?

A ‘SIGNIFICANT’ JOBS PACKAGE?…. For the last several months, it seemed there was no political appetite for additional federal investment to help the economy. The recovery bill approved in February had helped prevent an economic calamity, but Democratic leaders feared the public would recoil if they took on another effort.

Those attitudes seem to be changing quickly. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled to his caucus that he’s eyeing a new job-creation bill. A few days later, President Obama announced plans for a jobs summit at the White House in December.

And Roll Call reports today that leaders from both chamber are “gathering ideas and building momentum for what could be a significant new jobs package” early in the new year.

[R]esistance among Members to a significant new economic package appears to be fading…. [T]he continued uptick of the unemployment rate — now at 10.2 percent — has renewed the once-taboo idea of another stimulus.

“While Members are definitely concerned about spending, there also is a recognition that unemployment is over 10 percent, and Members want to be able to say they are doing something on unemployment and jobs,” one House leadership aide said. […]

One idea that continues to get talked about is a $500 billion transportation reauthorization bill, which is up for renewal anyway and would produce tangible projects and jobs that are easy for voters to see and lawmakers to tout.

The same article noted that congressional Republicans will continue to push for “several hundred billion in tax cuts,” paid for through spending cuts. Since this is insane, congressional Democrats have shown no interest in the idea.

The political angles to this are pretty obvious. Republicans will insist that federal investment in the economy is always a bad idea, and argue that the stimulus package was a “failure,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. A jobs bill will be labeled “Stimulus II” (or “Stimulus III,” if you count Bush’s failed efforts in early 2008), in the hopes of creating a public backlash.

But there’s an equally obvious flipside: the public backlash against extended, rising unemployment rates is much more problematic than Republicans, Fox News, and talk radio whining incessantly about investing in the economy.

As for the timeline, most of the reports point to a “early 2010” timeframe, but the House — which is left to wait for the Senate to work on health care and energy policy, which the lower chamber have already passed — may act even sooner. Indeed, there’s at least one report suggesting House Democrats may pass a jobs bill “by Christmas.”