GOP NARRATIVES VS. PUBLIC NEEDS…. House Democrats are ready to move forward on a package of economic policies — jobless benefits, temporary health care subsidies, job creation investments — that would bolster the ongoing recovery. But it’s struggling, not because of its merits, but because many Democrats are worried about Republican narratives.

“We have put together a wonderful bill, and every piece in it can be justified as good public policy,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a freshman Democrat from Virginia. “But it is not paid for. Until somebody shows me a path for this being paid for, I am a no.”

Aiming for a vote on Thursday, House Democratic officials said they had agreed to cut the cost of the measure by more than $40 billion by limiting a provision on Medicare fees paid to doctors and extending unemployment benefits through Nov. 30 instead of Dec. 31. Aides said the changes would result in about $90 billion of the measure’s overall costs of around $150 billion being branded as emergency spending and added to the deficit — a level they hoped a majority could swallow. […]

[T]he difficulties top Democrats were experiencing in securing votes in both the House and the Senate illustrated the intensifying power of spending as a campaign issue and real concerns among lawmakers about the consequences of the growing debt.

During the Bush/Cheney era, it was, as Republicans have already conceded, “standard practice not to pay for things.” Now, however, many Democratic lawmakers are terrified of deficit spending — no matter how many people it will help, and no matter how fragile the economic recovery — because they’ll face attack ads launched by those who turned a huge surplus into a huge deficit, and who have no credibility on fiscal responsibility.

“Right now, jobs matter more than deficits,” AFSCME president Gerald McEntee said yesterday. “And even if the deficit is your top concern, imagine what will happen to it if hundreds of thousands more Americans lose their jobs.”

As sensible as this sounds, lawmakers’ desire to help the economy is clearly in conflict with lawmakers’ anxiety over common Republican/media frames (“spending = bad”).

The spending bill carries a price tag on $127 billion bill, but would add $84 billion to the deficit, with some costs offset by new oil fees and tax reforms affecting multinational corporations. It also addresses the Medicare “Doc Fix.”

Expect some close votes today.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.