Top administration officials David Plouffe and Gene Sperling visited Senate Democrats today to sell President Barack Obama’s jobs plan and field questions from several skeptical Members, meeting with the caucus for 90 minutes.
The key Obama aides gave a presentation outlining the details of the $447 billion plan, which includes payroll tax breaks for employees and employers, creation of an infrastructure bank, increased education funding, and money for transportation projects. According to lawmakers in the room, Sperling shared projections for how many jobs the package would create, and the two men answered questions until there were only four Members left in the room.
“It was a great discussion. It was substantive,” Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said. “There were some disagreements on different parts here and there, but the overall feeling was that the administration is open to suggestions from Members about different policy issues on jobs and different strategic issues about jobs and that we’re all in this boat together. David Plouffe and Gene Sperling assured us that [jobs are] going to be the president’s focus for the next several months. We want to make that the Senate’s focus for the next several months.”
Multiple Senators said the back-and-forth between lawmakers and Obama surrogates was friendly, a far cry from tense meetings in July in the midst of a heated battle with Republicans to raise the nation’s debt limit.
Though the session was mostly informational and cordial, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said, there also were some debates over how to best boost the economy as it continues to sputter. Senators offered other suggestions for ways to spur economic growth.
“There was one statement by one of the Members — I don’t want to identify him, but he’d probably identify himself — who was a little bit off the bill,” Lieberman said. “He hoped the administration would focus on China and China’s unfair trade practices, which are costing jobs here.”
The Connecticut Independent is one of the Members who still feels as if he needs more time to consider the offerings from the White House and that it is more likely that Congress can pass pieces of Obama’s plan than the entire package as drafted.
“I’m one of those who thinks that the best thing we can do for our economy on jobs is to agree on a big, bipartisan debt reduction program,” Lieberman added. “If we’re spending a half-trillion dollars here on this jobs act and we have to raise that to pay for it, that means that’s a half-trillion dollars we’re not going to have to pay for the debt we now have, then I really have got to feel that the parts of it are worth it.”
Earlier this week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction that is tasked to find ways to pay for Obama’s plan, said he didn’t see how it was likely that the measures could pass “en bloc.”