White House vows to push job bill "piece by piece"

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 11, 2011 12:16 PM
White House vows to push job bill "piece by piece"

By Laura MacInnis

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - The White House vowed to push forward with President Barack Obama's jobs package "piece by piece" if a vote fails on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, as expected, to advance the legislation.

Obama was in Pittsburgh as part of a campaign to get lawmakers to pass his $447 billion proposal. It is the latest stop in a tour of swing states in next year's election to raise pressure on Republicans resisting big chunks of the jobs bill.

White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said the Senate vote later on Tuesday would highlight how the Republicans were being obstructionist despite a public weary of high unemployment.

But he made clear the Obama administration's fallback option would be to offer the jobs plan piecemeal.

"This has overwhelming Democratic support," Sperling told CNBC news. "What's going to be disturbing and surprising -- and should be disturbing and surprising to everyone -- is the degree that, with such a weak economy ... so many Republicans will choose to simply say 'no'."

"If they (Republicans) choose not to give the support that will allow this to get 60 votes, if they choose to do that, then we'll come back piece after piece," he told CNBC news.

Several Democrats, which have a Senate majority, and nearly every Republican are expected to vote against the measure around 6 p.m. EDT.

Lawmakers could opt to pass pieces of the bill. A payroll tax cut is due to expire at the end of this year, and would impose an effective tax increase at a time wages have not been rising much at all.

Republicans said they had recommended breaking the proposal into smaller parts in a memo to the White House last month in which they identified areas where the two parties could find common ground.

"The president and Senate Democratic leaders want to pretend that they are battling Republican intransigence, but -- in fact -- we are 100-percent focused on doing everything possible to help get our economy moving again," said Michael Steele, spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Obama's 2012 re-election chances hinge heavily on his ability to spur the sluggish economic recovery and revive a nearly stagnant job market.

But his jobs bill was headed for likely defeat in the Senate, as his Democrats were expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle.

Despite a month of high-profile lobbying by the president, the bill could fail to get even a simple 50-vote majority in the chamber. Such an outcome would deal an embarrassing setback for Obama's top legislative priority.

Republicans who control the House of Representatives have already said they will not bring the full bill up for a vote.

(Writing by Alister Bull; Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Philip Barbara)