Moving to Phase 2 on the jobs fight

Senate Democrats put together 51 votes for the American Jobs Act, but it wasn’t enough — a united Republican caucus killed the bill last night. This did not, however, mark the end of the fight over jobs, and Dems have a plan on how to proceed.

President Obama, in his press conference last week, offered a preview of what’s to come: “I promise you we’re going to keep on going, and we will put forward maybe piece by piece each component of the bill.”

As of this morning, that’s still very much the plan.

“Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight,” the president said in a statement. He added, “In the coming days, members of Congress will have to take a stand on whether they believe we should put teachers, construction workers, police officers and firefighters back on the job.”

Votes on pieces of the bill could begin this month, perhaps as early as next week, Senate Democratic aides said. Party leaders said they needed to consult their caucus before they decided on the timing or chose the provisions to be considered separately.

It’s not a bad approach. One of the underlying points of White House’s public relations campaign is to make Republicans pay a political price for rejecting a credible, popular, bipartisan jobs bill during an unemployment crisis. After last night’s vote, the new priority is apparently to make the GOP pay a political price more than once.

It’s one thing to reject a package deal; it’s intended to be even more damaging to force Republicans to vote against popular ideas, over and over again — no to infrastructure investments, no to small business tax cuts, no to saving teachers’ jobs, no to rebuilding schools, no to the jobs-for-veterans tax break, etc. The goal would be to get Republicans on record opposing every good idea on jobs.

Will this have a practical effect on the economy? Almost certainly not, since congressional Republicans in both chambers have already vowed to stop any effort that might make an appreciable difference. Ideally, governing and policymaking options would still exist, but the results of the 2010 midterms eliminated those possibilities.

The Dems’ strategy will, however, make the distinctions between the parties that much more striking in advance of an election year, and help President Obama argue that if Americans are looking for someone to blame for the weak economy, they can start with the party that kills jobs bills.

For months, GOP leaders have sought to avoid “co-ownership” of the economy. The Democratic approach is intended to put Republican names on the title.