Washington House Democratic leaders sent mixed signals Friday on a new jobs bill supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and a senior Republican senator predicted his party will block action on the Senate floor.
The two events further complicated plans to quickly pass election-year legislation addressing huge job losses.
Senate Democrats scrapped a bipartisan jobs bill Thursday in favor of one they say is leaner and more focused on putting Americans back to work, all but daring Republicans to vote against it.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Democrats may lose that bet, at least at a key procedural stage.
“I personally believe that every Republican would have to vote against cloture,” Hatch said in an interview, using the term for the 41 GOP senators’ power to keep the bill from coming to the floor for an up-or-down vote. They would do so to protest Reid’s decision to scrap the broader bipartisan bill, which could have passed the Senate easily, Hatch said.
If the Senate manages to pass the scaled-back bill, however, House Democrats will be under pressure to hand President Barack Obama a badly needed political victory while addressing the biggest economic issue facing the country — the loss of 8.4 million jobs since the start of the recession. Supporters hope nervous lawmakers facing congressional elections in November, and an unemployment rate just below 10 percent, will feel obligated to support a jobs bill.
Reid wants to quickly pass the bill after Congress returns from a weeklong break Feb. 22.
House Democrats were at odds over the pared-down Senate bill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said he could live with it, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said she wants to pass key provisions of a much broader House-passed bill centered more on spending than tax cuts.
Pelosi issued a statement Friday saying she would work with Reid, but she said she wants to salvage parts of the House bill, including $27 billion in aid to states, mainly to save teachers’ jobs.
Hoyer gave a different assessment.
“The answer is yes,” he said when asked whether the House would support a scaled-back Senate bill.
“We feel it’s very important to pass a bill which will help expand the economy and grow jobs, so we’d be very inclined. If the Senate can pass something, we’re going to pass that, and we know we can pass that,” he told reporters Friday in Annapolis, Md.