For several weeks, the White House has maintained that the American Jobs Act had a legitimate shot in Congress. It’s a good plan, which includes ideas from both parties, and which has drawn praise from economists from across the spectrum. Its provisions are broadly popular, and with some public pressure, President Obama believes lawmakers could be pressed to do the right thing.

And while, under normal circumstances, this is exactly the kind of jobs bill that a Congress and a White House would work together to pass, the fantasy came to a rather abrupt halt yesterday afternoon.

In the morning, the president told reporters before a cabinet meeting that he’d like to see the House and Senate vote on the American Jobs Act before the end of October. “If there are aspects of the bill [Republicans] don’t like,” Obama said, “they should tell us what it is that they’re not willing to go for.”

Soon after, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters that congressional Republicans aren’t willing to go for much of anything.

Cantor said the House would not bring up the president’s American Jobs Act for a vote as a whole, but by the end of the month would move forward with elements supported by GOP leaders, including three pending trade agreements and a reduction in the withholding tax for businesses.

“The president continues to say, ‘Pass my bill in its entirety.’ As I’ve said from the outset, the all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable,” Cantor told reporters Monday in his weekly Capitol briefing. […]

Asked directly if the bill was dead as a comprehensive package, Cantor replied, “Yes.”

It’s not just that Cantor is opposed to considering the jobs bill in its entirety and prefers a more piecemeal approach; it’s that the oft-confused Majority Leader has decided there are only two ideas House Republicans are even willing to consider. The first is a set of modest trade bills, which may not pass anyway, and the second is a cut to a 3% withholding tax that Republicans were responsible for creating in the first place.

That’s it. That’s what Cantor’s right-wing caucus is open to considering. Investments in infrastructure? No. Funds to save teachers’ and first responders’ jobs? No. Tax breaks for businesses? No. Tax breaks for the middle class? Probably no.

In other words, in response to President Obama’s ambitious plan to boost the economy and create jobs, Eric Cantor has decided House Republicans don’t want to boost the economy and won’t help create jobs.

Cantor’s comments come two weeks after he and other GOP leaders pleaded with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke not to take any additional steps to improve economic conditions.

It’s almost as if congressional Republicans are deliberately trying to hold the economy back, in the hopes that weaker growth and high unemployment would improve their electoral prospects. Perhaps it’s a question worth debating.

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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.