Awaiting a ‘Jobs First’ agenda

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, host Bob Schieffer asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday, “Do Republicans have any plans to do anything on the unemployment front or are you just going to let things take their course?” It seemed like a good question.

McConnell replied, “No, I — I think — what — what we’re doing is encouraging the president to — to quit doing what he’s doing.”

The Senate Minority Leader has clearly given job policy considerable thought. And to think I doubted him.

Jay Bookman did a nice job fact-checking McConnell’s other remarks — it’s as if the senator has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to the economy — but the key takeaway here is the realization that McConnell doesn’t even think a jobs agenda is necessary. If he and his party simply stand in the way of the White House’s agenda — an agenda, by the way, that vastly improved the economy — everything will be fine.

In theory, this should create an opportunity for Democrats. Congressional Republicans not only don’t have a plan to create jobs; they don’t even see the need for one. There’s some talk that Senate Dems are at least looking in the right direction.

Fearing the economy may be getting worse, Democrats plan to soon unveil what they’ll call a “Jobs First” agenda — and the stakes are high. A bleak economic outlook, like the May jobs report, could cost Democrats their thin Senate majority and even the White House if they can’t make a strong case to an anxious electorate that their policies will create jobs. […]

Sen. Mark Begich has enlisted business officials to present senators with their ideas for bolstering job creation, and the Alaska Democrat wants his party to unveil a package full of proposals — like a boost in infrastructure spending and changes to visas to boost tourism — that one by one could be brought to the floor over the next several weeks.

All kinds of ideas are apparently on the table. The best possible idea — an ambitious stimulus that ignores deficit concerns — won’t generate any consideration, but modest measures, including a payroll tax holiday, are still being bandied about.

Even former President Clinton is weighing in, writing a piece for Newsweek with several credible ideas for job creation.

I’m not especially optimistic about “Jobs First.” Getting Dems to agree to a meaningful plan will be like herding cats, and getting the GOP-led House to pass it will be impossible.

But I’m at least mildly encouraged by the shifting discussion. Instead of an all-deficit-all-the-time debate, Democrats are talking about what can be done to create jobs, while Republican deliberately ignore the issue. Here’s hoping Dems aim high and don’t let up.