Trying to close ranks on the American Jobs Act

With antsy congressional Democrats unsure about supporting the American Jobs Act, the New York Times editorial board has some good advice for the party: “Americans need Democrats to step up now.”

For Mr. Obama to win public support for this effort, Americans need to see him attack the Republicans’ opposition and to forcefully get his party in line.

Some Democrats oppose the jobs bill for its apparent connection to the stimulus law from 2009, which Republicans lambasted on their way to victories in the midterm elections in 2010. The problem with the stimulus bill is not that it did not work. The problem is that neither the administration nor Congressional Democrats ever persuasively used the evidence of its positive effect on jobs, as documented by the Congressional Budget Office and in private economic analyses.

The last thing Democrats should do now is repeat that mistake, cowing in the face of Republican tirades against government help.

For what it’s worth, the White House is not blind to the caucus’ restlessness. Some senior administration officials, including, David Plouffe, a senior adviser to President Obama, spent an hour and a half yesterday with Senate Democrats, answering questions and responding to concerns. Plouffe conceded that support is not unanimous, but said “the vast majority of them are excited” about the American Jobs Act.

Indeed, several Democratic leaders spent much of the afternoon downplaying talk of intra-party divisions. Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters, “[W]e’re on the same page and we’re on the same team.” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-N.Y.) said Democratic support would pass the bill if gets to the floor.

On the other side of the Capitol, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said around the same time, “Our caucus is very unified in support of the American Jobs Act and the fact that it is paid for. It may differ with some provisions within it, or the pay-fors, but they do not differ in the fact that we must get behind it.”

Behind the scenes, various congressional Democratic offices let it be known that the talk of divisions within the party had been overstated by the media.

As for the White House, the fact that they’re investing time in trying to shore up support on the Hill is evidence of a West Wing committed a sustained process. It led Jonathan Cohn to note, “Obama’s performance over the summer — and, to some extent, from the beginning of his presidency — has frustrated and depressed supporters, who wanted him to be more aggressive. Well, now he’s being more aggressive. Are they making phone calls and emails to Congress? Are they getting involved in campaigns?”

Those are good questions. The answers may help dictate the outcome of the fight.