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July 28, 2015

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Harry Reid toils to secure votes on jobs bill

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Oct. 5 to discuss President Barack Obama’s jobs bill.

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Sen. Harry Reid plans to bring up President Barack Obama’s jobs bill this week, and he’s going to do it his way.

Reid has the difficult task of trying to strong-arm resistant Republicans while assisting a Democratic president who doesn’t always consult him on the feasibility of his initiatives before he rolls them out.

Enter the jobs bill. Obama unveiled during a speech to a joint session of Congress in early September his plan to inject $450 billion into the economy by directing the funds toward infrastructure, which would create construction jobs.

Obama has since taken the refrain of that speech: “Pass this jobs bill!” on a campaign tour of the country.

But that’s on the road. In the Senate, “pass this jobs bill” — in the sense of go ahead, try to pass this jobs bill — has also taken on the tone of a threat from Republicans, who believe they can vote it down.

For the past month, Reid has been ignoring both as he and Democratic leaders craft an alternative.

Sometimes it’s been subtle: Two weeks ago, Reid deflected questions about his plans for the jobs bill by talking about a jobs agenda headlined by a bill to censure China for unfair currency-manipulation practices.

Sometimes it’s been explosive: Last week, Reid dropped a “nuclear option” procedural move to make it impossible to offer nontopical amendments to legislation after it has cleared setup votes. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, it just so happens, was trying to force a vote on Obama’s jobs bill in its original form by offering it as an amendment to the Chinese currency measure.

The majority leader has been reminding the public on a near-daily basis that McConnell has made defeating Obama next November his No. 1 priority.

But McConnell isn’t the only one putting Reid in a tight spot. It’s not easy to sell a stimulus bill to Congress while it’s also attempting to tame deficits. That task is even harder because the president proposed paying for half of his bill with reductions in war spending due to the drawdown in military operations: a funding stream lawmakers ultimately eschewed for accounting purposes during the debt-ceiling debate.

The jobs bill the Senate expected to vote on this week substitutes Obama’s plan with a new proposal to pay for it: a 5.6 percent surtax on millionaires — the top 0.4 percent of wage earners in America — which would start in 2013. It would almost cover the cost of the jobs bill, $445 billion of the $450 billion.

Republicans are expected to oppose the policy — and as of last week, Reid didn’t even expect every Democrat to sign on.

But in revising the measure Reid has made arguing against it more uncomfortable: When Republicans say they voted against Obama’s high-priced, so-called jobs bill, Democrats are sure to retort something like yes, you voted against American jobs that were paid for, to protect the profits of millionaires.

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