Fool Me Twice? Dems Say Jobs Agenda Won’t Get Bogged Down Like Health Care

Senate Democrats have pivoted, at times clumsily, from a universal focus on health care reform to a universal focus on jobs legislation. But is jobs destined to get bogged down by the same legislative morass that ultimately stymied health care? Democrats say not on their watch.

Yesterday, Politico reported that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) had told Democratic leadership that he’d like to take a crack at some elements of the Democrats’ burgeoning job proposal in his Finance Committee. The news gave progressives, and rank and file Democrats flashbacks to the Baucus-led Gang of Six negotiations on health care reform, which dragged on for months and ultimately failed to secure any Republican votes.

But numerous Senate aides said today that the jobs push is–and will be–different. They say the sense of urgency is greater, and that leadership is busily figuring out how to enact a meaningful jobs package as expeditiously as possible.Where Democrats are slightly at odds is over strategy: should a jobs package–or elements thereof–be put directly on the Senate floor, or should parts of it be put through the standard legislative process–hearings, amendments, votes–which could eat up precious time.

Ultimately leadership will make that decision, and a Democratic Senate aide confirms that Baucus will support whatever decision Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid makes.

“He is definitely on board,” the aide said.

Additionally it’s likely that some elements of the agenda will be brought straight to the floor no matter what. The question is whether expediting the more contentious elements of the agenda will win enough votes to overcome an expected filibuster. Baucus has his doubts–and aides say that’s OK as long as jobs don’t become health care redux.

“His aim is always rooted in that–in trying to get Republican support,” said a separate, top Democratic aide.

Aides acknowledge that Baucus’ suggestion took them by surprise, and wasn’t met well. There was even some speculation that he may have been guarding his territory–the Finance Committee, which he chairs, has broad jurisdiction over federal revenue. But in the day since the news broke, they seem to have reached a consensus. No matter what, the first part of the jobs package will be moving forward soon–possibly next week. Still unclear is what provisions it will include–a new hire tax credit? infrastructure bonds? money for community banks?–and whether the other pieces will be similarly fast tracked. The answer to those question is still being hashed out by Democratic principals, and we may have more answers later this afternoon.

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