Blue Dogs Cool To Obama Jobs Vision

Rep. Heath Schuler (D-NC)
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed remarks by Rep. Kurt Schrader to Rep. John Barrow. TPM regrets the error.

Blue Dog Democrats are pushing members of the joint deficit Super Committee to reduce the deficit significantly more than they’ve been tasked with. But they don’t want to talk about President Obama’s jobs plan. And beneath the surface its clear that there are major differences between the White House and conservative members of his party.

Leaders of the Blue Dog caucus held a press conference in the Capitol Visitor’s Center Wednesday to push the Super Committee to “go big.” But thanks to an explicit efforts by Democrats and the administration the deficit panel’s work has become linked to the idea of job creation, and Obama’s jobs bill. But the Blue Dogs didn’t really want to talk about it.

After the press conference I asked Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) whether he agreed with CBO chief Doug Elmendorf — and by extension Obama — that the wisest economic path involves near term stimulus followed by long-run fiscal restraint.

“I would definitely be at odds with his comment on that — I mean we’ve got to get our fiscal house in order,” Shuler said. “We’re at 15 percent of GDP in revenue and 24 and a half percent of expenditures. You want to take that 15 percent to 13 percent and increase spending to 27 percent…. I’ve ran a business, that doesn’t go good on my balance sheet. I’m in the red when that happens.”

“We’re not here to talk about a specific piece of legislation,” retiring Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) told reporters. “That is a small part of what we’re talking about…we’re here to talk about cutting $4 trillion…. In terms of jobs, I think I speak for all of us, we’re for creating more jobs.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) said Obama’s actual jobs plan is much less important than the fact that he’s talking about the economy.

“The President’s jobs package is about instilling confidence — to be listening to folks out there,” he told reporters. “There’s a mixed media message going to folks back home, they’re not sure, are we paying attention to their plight. End of the day, what’s in, what gets passed at the end of the day in the President’s jobs package isn’t as important as the fact that we’re talking about, and more importantly that Boehner and Cantor are at least on the surface seem to want to do something with the President. That’s the kind of confidence we want to instill in the Super Committee.”

They’re not as openly critical about Obama’s plan as some Senate Dems. But for now they’re just about as cool to the jobs bill as they are pessimistic about the Super Committee’s prospects.

Said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), “We all need to pray for a miracle that one or more of them is willing to consider the argument on the other side and do the right thing.”

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