After repeated condemnation during the debt-ceiling debate of Congress taking votes on matters that are “political statements” and have no chance of passage, the White House developed a new spin yesterday on such votes—at least where the President’s much-sought-after jobs bill is concerned.
At the briefing for White House reporters Wednesday afternoon, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that while the administration is still opposed to votes on measures with no chance of passage—and he referred without name to the alternative budget offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as an example—it nevertheless wanted Congress to vote on measures such as the Obama jobs legislation—which, its nonexistent chance of passage notwithstanding, has popular support in public opinion polls.
This rather unique approach to what Congress votes on came in response to a question to Carney from Associated Press radio correspondent Mark Smith.
“You and the President were both really scathing over the summer over the whole idea of holding votes on things that can’t pass,” Smith said. “You were talking about how the House Republicans had their deficit plan, the President had threatened to veto it, it wasn’t going to become law, why do it? Even with that history, you want the House Republicans to vote on the President’s plan, even though [House Majority Leader] Eric Cantor says, ‘I know my guys are not going to vote for it, it won’t pass,’ and you want [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid to hold a vote on the whole package even though, when the appointed hour comes, he may well not have enough votes to get past the filibuster. You want that to go ahead?”
“We do, Mark,” Carney replied without hesitation. “We were engaged in obvious negotiations. There were provisions that—the absolute important difference is that the things that you were talking about that were being voted on in the House, that had no chance of clearing Congress, let alone being signed into law by the President, were overwhelmingly unpopular, unsupported by the American people. Voucherizing Medicare—check your data—not popular. The kind of approach that was represented in the House Republican budget—not—this was not something that had the American people’s support.”
However, Carney insisted, “What we know about the American Jobs Act and the provisions within it, is not only does it have the support of the American people, every provision in it has been supported—or similar provisions to it—the kinds of provisions that are in the American Jobs Act have been supported overwhelmingly by Republicans in the past, including Mitch McConnell.
“So that’s a big—that’s a huge—difference. When you talk about—and it’s a huge difference when you talk about the admittedly difficult task, but possible task, of convincing members of Congress to actually vote with the people they represent, to vote in line with how they voted in the past. So I would say that distinction is pretty significant.”
When Smith followed up by asking whether “a symbolic vote is okay,” Carney offered the explanation, “I don’t think it has to be symbolic.
“And I think that we need to take urgent action on the economy, and that’s what the American people are saying. There wasn’t a groundswell of the American people saying, you know what? What we need right now is to dismantle Medicare, charge seniors $6,000 more per year, and that will answer all our problems. I can guarantee you that wasn’t what we were hearing from the American people.”
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