When Obama Says ‘Pass This Bill,’ He’s Not Joking

He’s demanding that Congress swallow the entire $447 billion package as presented.

Which seems like a rather significant departure from his rhetoric during the debt ceiling fight, in which the White House at least made lots of noises about compromise when in fact they torpedoed a deal between Boehner and Reid.

Now? As Max von Sydow would say, “the time for pretense is o-verrr.”

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The Hill indicates Obama’s plan has zero chance of passing as is…

Republicans have been reluctant to embrace the bill, in particular its plan to rely on tax hikes on wealthy Americans and business to pay for the proposals. But even before the White House announced those tax provisions on Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had said the administration would need to negotiate on its proposed package of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and unemployment benefits.

“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,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said Monday in a statement that referred to several tax hikes on the rich and businesses that Obama would use to pay for the package.

While Axelrod said the package was not an al a carte menu, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has suggested there could be a negotiation.

At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey notes this is junior-varsity politicking on Axelrod’s part…

Obviously, Axelrod thinks that Obama can score with independents by looking tough and refusing to negotiate with Republicans, but that’s a very dangerous strategy.  If the GOP starts breaking up the package into individual elements that Obama himself proposed, it’s hard to call that a do-nothing Congress.  If the Democrat-controlled Senate refuses to take up the House bills, John Boehner can rightfully point to Democratic obstructionism as the real culprit.  It’s also rather doubtful that Obama would veto bills with elements that he proposed in the AJA if they pass the Senate, either.  Axelrod is setting Obama up for another backtrack, and another point of weakness in dealing with Boehner.

That’s certainly a valid interpretation, and with independents and moderates Morrissey might be right. I’m going to say, though, that’s not the play here. Obama is using the jobs bill as a play to shore up his support from the Left. He’s going for a beatdown here. Axelrod and Plouffe and Bill Burton and the rest of his braintrust have seen polls which say that the Republicans in Congress are even more unpopular than Obama is, and they think a frontal assault on Boehner and Cantor and the rest will help buck up their supporters without making the Republicans any more sympathetic.

That’s why every word out of his mouth now is “Pass this bill!” as though he was an automaton. This is Resolute Obama, and it’s designed to make Chris Matthews’ leg tingle and Michael Moore’s heart flutter.

Never mind that there are twice as many conservatives in the country who would vote for, donate to and volunteer on behalf of a spastic tortoise against Obama next year than there are left-wingers who feel the same sympathy for him. Obama’s team thinks they can successfully demonize his GOP opponent next year enough to change those numbers regardless of the facts on the ground – and that his jobs bill has no chance of passing Congress is a feature, not a bug, because they know the economy isn’t going to improve between now and next November regardless of what happens to this $450 billion boondoggle and therefore it’s better to blame the other guy for standing in the way of his plan than to take the blame for it not working.

Which is why maybe, just maybe, Boehner ought to do precisely what Obama asks. Maybe he ought to pass that bill and then spend the next year asking rude questions about why it didn’t work.

After all, Obama can’t spend all of that money in 14 months. A new president with a GOP House and Senate can dump that money back into the treasury, mitigating the damage done to deficits and debt. And given that even nobody in Obama’s camp actually believes he gets anything other than political payoffs to constituencies out of this, you’re really just calling his bluff.

Would the Tea Party lose their cookies over passage of that bill? Sure – which is why Boehner would need to present it to the Joe Walshes and Jeff Landrys as a pure, cynical political ploy to pass it, instruct them NOT to vote for it and scream bloody murder about it and then find 30 or so good GOP soldiers in good enough electoral shape to vote for the bill while going on TV and saying “I’m going to give Obama one last final chance to prove that he knows what he’s doing on economic policy, and Lord help him if he’s wrong.”

Work the numbers so that it passes with 218 votes, the vast majority of them Democrats, and say “OK, you got what you wanted. Get Reid to pass it through the Senate. And if it doesn’t work, you might as well resign rather than waste your time running for re-election.”

Of course, one major problem with this idea is that Obama sent the bill to the House yesterday, and there still isn’t a House Democrat who has stepped forward to offer it as a sponsor. If Obama can’t find a House Democrat sponsor for the thing, it’ll be kind of hard for the president to shout “Pass this bill!” at the top of his lungs and Axelrod to demand that it pass without being broken up or altered in any way.

And if Obama can’t get a sponsor for this bill? No need to call his bluff – his cards are already on the table, and his hand’s a loser.

There are people who say Obama’s presidency effectively ended with that speech last Wednesday. It’s entirely possible those people are right. And if I’m correct in perceiving that he’s reduced to bucking up his base with an unsellable economic plan, we’ll know a verdict shortly.

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