Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Jobs and Occupations

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today In Washington

THE SENATE: Convenes at 2 and this evening will take a pair of newsworthy roll calls. The one at 6:15 will reveal there are nowhere near the 60 votes necessary to get Obama’s jobs package out of the legislative starting gate. The other one will pass legislation making it easier to raise tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing keeps its currency undervalued — a bill that’s going nowhere in the House, where GOP leaders fear enactment would start a trade war.

THE HOUSE: Convenes at noon and is on course to pass legislation easing EPA regulations on commercial boilers this evening, along with half a dozen narrowly drawn and noncontroversial veterans benefit measures. After the day’s roll call votes — clumped together starting at 6:30 — debate will get started on the Colombia, Panama and South Korea trade liberalization deals and on a bill to provide federal aid to the U.S. workers who will lose their jobs as a consequence of those deals.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama has just landed in Pittsburgh. At noon he’s convening a meeting of his presidential jobs council, and the 27 corporate and labor leaders will deliver a 50-page report recommending a pan-ideological mix of new spending and regulatory relief to promote job creation. Although he’s keenly aware his own $447 billion jobs bill is a dead letter at the Capitol, he’ll make another appeal for it during a 1:50 speech at an electrical workers union training center.

Air Force One is wheels up for Orlando at 2:40. After fundraisers in a hotel ballroom and then a prominent donor’s mansion, the president is due back on the South Lawn just before midnight.

UNDOING THE PACKAGE: Reid is scrambling today to try to generate a partisan united front in favor of the Obama jobs bill. Even though tonight’s test vote will doom the package to the domestic policy out-basket — with or without all 53 Democratic Caucus votes — the majority leader wants to put the symbolically best face possible on the defeat. He’s not likely to be able to do so. At least three Democratic senators fighting tough battles for re-election in 2012 in states sure to vote Republican for president — Ben Nelson in Nebraska, Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana — are ready to vote no, because the switch to a true millionaires tax as the pay-for did not change their political calculations. (Only one Republican, Scott Brown, is even considering a “yes” vote.)

The Senate’s rebuff will come despite a last-minute plea from Obama’s re-election guru, David Axelrod, who sent a memo to every Democratic lawmaker over the weekend asserting that voters — especially independents — were liking the Obama bill more and more each day, and that he had the poll numbers to prove it.

Already, Democratic leaders in both the Senate and the House are turning away from talk about the Obama prescriptions as a package and are focusing on the relatively big fistful of his individual proposals that do have some bipartisan support. A boost of spending on public works with the help of a national infrastructure bank is No. 1 with a bullet on that list — and is also at the center of the package the president’s jobs council is rolling out this afternoon. It’s calling for a new highway bill to get passed this fall as well as for congressional action to modernize ports and update the electric grid and the nation’s water and sewer lines. And to that end, the White House will announce that it’s speeding up environmental and other regulatory approvals for 14 public works projects across the country — including the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, a 14-mile rail line in Baltimore and a light-rail project extension near LAX airport.

Which of the president’s job creation proposals will get cherrypicked for success this fall, if any, is now entirely up to the supercommittee — which faces a deadline six weeks from tomorrow for any legislation it wants, so long as the net result is at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction in the next decade. And the 12 members appear to be making some progress behind closed doors in their quest. It’s clear they have engaged in substantive discussions, moved through issues including overhauling entitlement programs and the tax system, searched for common ground, and even created subgroups to further study topics. Several panelists say their talks have moved from simply framing partisan arguments to beginning negotiations.

STANDING FIRM: Reid’s op-ed in today’s Washington Post makes clear he’s giving no quarter in the Senate’s latest parliamentary war. “Republicans used a new stall tactic last week, one that is used infrequently in the history of the Senate. It was an attempt to make cloture meaningless — to say that the road to passage must include a vote-a-rama of unrelated, purely political votes. This is the practice we voted to change. The precedent we set merely returns the Senate to the regular order,” the majority leader wrote. “Now, 60 votes to end debate will mean debate actually ends, as the rules of the Senate intended.”

The sharply worded piece left no room for negotiating with Republicans on even a partial reversal of Reid’s maneuver. But for now it’s unclear how, if at all, McConnell plans to work around or combat the change in the rules — which is more a symbolic than a substantive swipe at the minority’s rights.

COMING IN WITH NUMBERS: Tonight’s GOP presidential debate will not be on any of the mainstream broadcast or cable news channels. Instead, it will be streamed live on the websites of both sponsors, Bloomberg News and the Washington Post, and will air on Bloomberg TV. The 90-minute session, starting at 8, is supposed to be all about the economy. Charlie Rose is the moderator, and he and the eight candidates (along with the Post’s Karen Tumulty and Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman) will be seated at a big oval wooden seminar table at Dartmouth.

The sponsors of the debate teamed up on a poll, out this morning, in which 68 percent overall (and 54 percent of Republicans) expressed support for raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 as a way to bring down the deficit. Among all those surveyed, a bipartisan 83 percent opposed reducing Social Security benefits and 82 percent said no to cutting Medicare benefits. There was a split, though, on the subject of defense cuts as way to stanch the red ink; 61 percent of Republicans opposed that idea, while 60 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents supported it.

CAIN’S SHIFT: His recent surge in the polls means Herman Cain will get to sit next to front-runner Mitt Romney tonight, while his slump in the polls means Rick Perry will be seated next to Cain. The latest national Gallup poll, out yesterday, put Cain at 18 percent among GOP voters — up from 5 percent in September — while Perry’s support has been cut in half in the past month, to 15 percent. (Romney is at 20 percent now, the same percentage who declare themselves undecided.)

And a Quinnipiac Poll out today shows a similar dynamic in Virginia: Cain and Romney tied at 21 percent, with Perry at 11 percent — down from 25 percent a month ago. The poll shows both the front-runners in a statistical tie with Obama, who carried Virginia in 2008, but the president solidly besting Perry in the state. The poll also found that, as in every other survey this year, there’s a statistical tie in the race for the open Senate seat in Virginia: Democrat Tim Kaine at 45 percent and Republican George Allen at 44 percent.

NO OMNIBUS? Bipartisan support appears to be building among senators for moving their 12 annual spending bills in several “minibus” packages — which they seem to think sounds nicer (and more procedurally manageable) than abandoning the regular order altogether and combining every single discretionary spending and policy decision into a single “omnibus.” (The Senate has passed only one of its annual bills, while the House has passed six.)

The new approach is evolving because Republican conservatives in the House are getting more and more set against wrapping all the spending bills into one — whether that happens before Thanksgiving or after. (A decision on the next move needs to be made before the current CR runs out on Nov. 18.) Such GOP resistance means minority Democratic votes would be needed to advance the used-to-be-routine process through the House, and Boehner & Co. don’t want to take that risk. But they think they could jump-start the process by packaging a measure or two with broad bipartisan appeal (Defense and Military Construction-VA, especially) each with a domestic spending bill or two that’s less popular in the GOP ranks.

ONE IS NOT THE OTHER: The hundred or so “Stop the Machine” anti-war protesters who spent the weekend camped out in Freedom Plaza are threatening to swarm through the House and Senate office buildings this afternoon in an effort to cause some TV-worthy disruptions. These people do not want to be confused with the Occupy D.C. crowd that’s been in McPherson Square for several days in a relatively low-impact version of the Occupy Wall Street movement. That ragtag group, which is getting less ragtag now that the AFL-CIO is helping it — and now that the Democrats are urging them on from just offstage — is planning its own protest on the Capitol Hill grounds for this afternoon.

A NEW GRIDIRON DINNER: The congressional charity football game that had been planned for tomorrow night at RFK Stadium — featuring former NFL players Heath Shuler for the Democrats and Jon Runyan for the GOP — has been postponed. (Organizers are now working toward a Nov. 2 date, but they haven’t found an alternative venue yet.) But the lavish reception in the works for the players and their lobbyist sponsors will go on as planned during what was to have been game time — from 8 until at least 10 at the American Trucking Association headquarters on the Hill.

TRAIL TIPS: (1) There’s a Toledo dateline in the futures of dozens of political writers (and probably some comedy writers, too) now that Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is in the race for the newly drawn Ohio congressional district that stretches along Lake Erie and into the Cleveland area.  D.C. Republicans recruited him on the assumption he can leverage his standing as a tea party icon — born when John McCain made him his favorite everyman surrogate in 2008 — to make a well-financed and competitive bid in what’s solidly Democratic territory. Assuming he wins the primary against Cleveland GOP chairman Rob Frost, Wurzelbacher will face the winner of one of the hottest incumbent vs. incumbent matchups created by redistricting: Dennis Kucinich vs. Marcy Kaptur.

(2) Elizabeth Warren says she raised $3.2 million for her Democratic Senate bid in Massachusetts in July, August, and September — precisely twice what incumbent Republican Scott Brown says he hauled in during the third quarter. The reports aren’t on file with the FEC yet, but Warren’s campaign says hers will show that 96 percent of the contributions were for $100 or less and that 11,000 of her donors were from the state.

(3) Republicans will get the best news they could hope for out of Hawaii tonight, when Linda Lingle puts an end to some lingering suspense and declares her candidacy for the Senate seat that’s being opened by the retirement of Daniel Akaka. (The announcement will come at a luncheon speech in Honolulu to a sales and marketing group.) But Lingle, who was governor for two terms ending last year, will still be an underdog in the race against either of the potential Democratic nominees, freshman Rep. Mazie Hirono (who has the all-important backing of the state’s other senator, Dan Inouye) or former Rep. Ed Case.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The Democratic co-chair of the deficit supercommittee, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington (61) and a pair of GOP House members, veteran Sam Johnson of Texas (81) and freshman Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee (49). Three other House Republicans celebrated over the long weekend: Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania (72) and Steve Southerland of Florida (46) yesterday and Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi (53) on Sunday.

— David Hawkings, editor

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