Obama, White House Disagree Over Own Jobs Bill

Tuesday, 13 Sep 2011 01:17 PM

By Martin Gould

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The White House was in disarray on Tuesday as President Barack Obama and his leading aides sent out a series of contradictory messages about his highly touted $447 billion jobs plan.

On the one hand Obama and his top economic adviser gave the go-ahead to Republicans to pick and choose parts of the bill and pass them while rejecting others.

But  another of Obama’s top political advisers said exactly the opposite during an appearance on ABC’s "Good Morning America."

"We're not in a negotiation to break up the package,” David Axelrod told George Stephanopoulos. “It's not an a la carte menu. It's a strategy to get this country moving.

"The president has a package, the package works together. We need to do many things to get this economy moving," Axelrod added.

The hard-hitting, no-nonsense statement from one of the men closest to the president was clearly at odds with what Obama had said only on Monday, when he told a meeting of Hispanic journalists that the bill could be broken up.

“Obviously if (Congress) passes parts of it I’m not going to veto those parts,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Obama as saying.

“I will sign it but I will say then ‘give me the rest.’ And I will keep on making that argument as long as the need is there to put people back to work.”

Today Axelrod was also contradicted by Obama’s top economic adviser Gene Sperling, who told reporters that the administration will make a “strong push” for Congress to pass the plan all at once, but said that if it is approved piecemeal, the White House would work to persuade Congress to pass the remaining parts.

Obama’s “instinct would be not to reject things he favored but to come back and keep fighting and fighting to get the entire program,” Sperling said at a jobs summit.

Obama released the details of the bill on Monday after outlining it in his address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday last week. He said the provisions would be funded by cutting income deductions for those earning more than $200,000 a year, changing the rules by which investment managers calculate their taxes, ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies and altering the method of calculating depreciation of corporate jets.

The House’s two most powerful Republicans, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor had both welcomed some of the job creating aspects of Obama’s initiative but balked at the idea of raising taxes.

“This tax increase on job creators is the kind of proposal both parties have opposed in the past," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn't appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit."

And Cantor added, “I hope the president is not suggesting that we pay for his proposals with a massive tax increase.”

Today, Cantor was more pointed, saying the House would not pass tax increases.

The Democratic disarray also spread to Congress, signaling that the party had spectacularly failed to get its act together on a united message.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi anticipated negotiations to get 'key parts of the bill' through Congress. She urged GOP representatives, “Pass it, change it, make your own suggestions adding to it, but let's act upon it."

But House Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson gave a completely different message saying America would not accept partial passing of the bill.

“The public perceives that as kicking the can down the road, and not stepping up,” Larson said. “(Obama’s) got a plan. He’s laid it out there. What is the problem with voting it up or down?”

During Thursday’s speech, Obama repeatedly claimed that his bill contained items that had won support from both parties in the past. He said there was no reason why Republicans should not embrace it.

The following day he took the case to Cantor’s own district in Virginia and on Tuesday went to Ohio, the home state of Boehner.

Republicans saw those moves as purely political. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said, "The president is hitting the road …in a political attempt to sell his package of old ideas. But unsurprisingly, he’s only stopping in major 2012 battleground states.

"I don’t think anyone should be surprised that he’s not stopping in North Dakota and Montana and Nebraska."

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Claiming this bill is bipartisan may sound good if you’re out there on the campaign trail, but surely the president could come up with some proposals that both sides had not already rejected.”

McConnell also called the bill “political” adding that it “reinforces the growing perception that this administration isn’t all that interested in economic policies that will actually work.”

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