The renewed focus on job creation

THE RENEWED FOCUS ON JOB CREATION…. The AP had a disconcerting report yesterday on the Dec. 3 “jobs summit” at the White House. As the AP put it, President Obama “says creating jobs isn’t the goal of a coming White House forum on jobs and economic growth.”

At first blush, that sounds pretty nutty. The White House is holding a forum on jobs and the goal isn’t to create jobs? Why bother holding a summit, then?

In truth, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked the president how a summit “is going to create a job.” Obama explained that the economy is starting to grow, and businesses are starting to be profitable again, but job growth is lagging. “And so the goal of the job summit is to figure out, are there ways of us accelerating that hiring?” the president said. “And there are a whole range of ideas out there; we’ve examined a lot of them. But one of the benefits of convening this group is it gives us a chance to talk directly to small businesses and medium-sized businesses, the main drivers of employment, to find out what exactly is going on.”

That’s a far cry from reporting that the goal of the jobs summit isn’t to create jobs.

On the Hill, meanwhile, we know the House is moving forward with its plans for a jobs bill. Today, Roll Call reports that two leading Senate Democrats are crafting a plan, too.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) have been quietly trying to write a jobs bill that the Senate can act on early next year, underscoring the renewed emphasis Congressional Democrats are putting on the economy as 2009 comes to a close. […]

Dorgan said this week he hoped to have a bill through the Senate before the president’s State of the Union address in late January and that he does not envision the health care debate tripping up that timeline.

“We’re going to be working on the jobs issue even as the health care bill is on the floor,” he said. “I don’t think that is going to interfere with the effort to get a good jobs package.”

Durbin said he and Dorgan teamed up to write the bill with the blessing of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has been leading the Senate’s push to enact a health care reform bill before Christmas.

Durbin acknowledged that Republicans are likely to complain that the Democratic majority shouldn’t put health care above job creation. The Majority Whip said, however, that the caucus is “trying to make it clear that we can walk and chew gum” at the same time.

As for concerns that the Senate jobs bill may be at odds with a House version, Durbin added that he’s working with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who’s helping lead the House efforts.

As for paying for the initiative, Durbin is eyeing unused TARP money, while the House is also weighing the possibility of a transactions tax on Wall Street.

I have to say, it’s encouraging to see Dems dig in quickly on this. A meaningful jobs bill is necessary — the sooner the better — and the majority seems to be responding well. It’s likely that center-right Dems will figure out a way to undermine these efforts, but for now, there’s some heartening momentum.