Like Democrats, GOP eager to talk about jobs after debt vote

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After passing a deal to raise the debt ceiling on Tuesday, Democrats vowed to focus intensely on jobs from here on out. Republicans are all too happy to oblige.

Heading into the 2012 election cycle, the campaign arm of the Senate Republican caucus is hammering Senate Democrats on jobs while trying to delicately explain the debt limit vote -- a vote that divided GOP leadership and Tea Party conservatives.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee published a web video today that contrasts positive remarks on the economy from Democrats with dismal economic statistics. The video was timed for release one year after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, "Welcome to the Recovery."

Speaking at the Capitol on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if Democrats had their way, Congress would have been focused on job creation, not the debt limit. The debt debate that Republicans pushed for, Democrats argued, stalled discussion over stimulative measures like investment in education, infrastructure and innovation.

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the NRSC, countered in a memo that "the reason we were even confronted with this debt ceiling debate was because of the reckless tax-and-spend agenda of this Democratic-controlled Senate... The Democrats own this economy and every Democrat candidate will be forced to defend it next year."

But while Republicans may seem just as eager as Democrats to turn to the topic of jobs, some conservatives may not let them just yet. The debt limit vote is bound to be a campaign issue for senators up for re-election in 2012. Five Republicans facing re-election next year voted for the measure, and one, Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana, is already facing the consequences.

The political action committee for the conservative group Citizens United pledged $10,000 to Lugar's primary challenger Richard Mourdock following the vote, Politico first reported. Lugar and others could also feel the heat from conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, whose PAC may back primary challengers against Republicans who voted for the debt limit increase, the Hill reports.

Lugar's campaign points out that not only is Lugar's fundraising outpacing Mourdock's by three to one, but also that the senator's vote on the debt limit was backed by organizations that represent Indiana employers like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

The Republican establishment has called the vote a modest victory for the conservative agenda while acknowledging the conservative base's dissatisfaction with it.

"Now was this debt ceiling bill perfect? Far from it, and Republicans rightfully have fairminded differences over it," Cornyn wrote in his memo yesterday. "Many Senate Republicans, including myself, would have preferred to pass into law Cut, Cap and Balance [the failed, conservative House Republican plan]... But what passage of this bill represents is a down-payment on the larger battle ahead, and a reminder that the needed debate over spending and job creation is far from over."

In a fundraising email sent to supporters on Tuesday, the Republican National Committee hailed the passage of the bill while telling conservatives that if they really want better legislation, they should vote more Republicans into office.

"While the Budget Control Act is far from perfect, it is a step forward," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote. "The bottom line is that until we vote President Obama and his Democratic allies in the Senate out of power, we won't be able to truly change the culture in Washington and deliver the results Americans like you demand."

As for the kind of change they're advocating for, Senate Republicans say they'd push for the type of legislation introduced this year by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and backed by 20 other Senate Republicans that would ban "economically significant" regulations until the unemployment rate falls to at least 7.7 percent.

Democrats, meanwhile, now that the debt limit has been raised, want to return to an agenda that includes a bill to set up an infrastructure bank that would combine federal and private funds, a bill that would provide job training for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and plug-in electric vehicles and clean energy bills.

As it stands, neither the Democratic-led Senate nor the Republican-led House has been able to do much to improve the unemployment rate, which stands at 9.2 percent.

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