WASHINGTON - President Obama's $447 billion jobs plan faces an important test on Capitol Hill today. Democrats plan to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, even though it is already in jeopardy.
Mr. Obama has been waging a campaign-style effort to rally public support behind the American Jobs Act. The plan combines payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses with $175 billion in spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure, as well as unemployment assistance and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.
The package reprises parts of President Obama's 2009 stimulus measure and a Social Security payroll tax cut enacted last year.
The jobs measure would be financed by a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million, raising more than $450 billion over a decade.
The bill requires 60 yes votes to overcome a Republican filibuster, and CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that's not likely to happen.
Democrats would need all 53 of their members to vote yes along with seven Republicans, and already three members of the Democratic caucus have said they will vote no. Sen. Joseph Manchin of West Virginia questions the effectiveness of the package, wondering whether we'll get the bang from the buck. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., both don't like the way Democratic leaders have proposed to pay for this bill with a new 5.6 percent surtax on any personal income over $1 million. They say that this is not the time to be raising taxes on anyone, including millionaires.
That's how most Republicans feel as well.
So even if this bill were to surmount these hurdles in the Senate, Cordes said, Republicans in the House are waiting to kill it.
If the proposal dies, Cordes said, the White House's options would include figuring out a different way to pay for the bill that does not include increasing tax revenue from the wealthy, which Republicans simply will not support.
"The actual measures that this bill would take have widespread support - things like a barrel tax cut, increased infrastructure spending, extending unemployment benefits," said Cordes. "So if Democrats can come up with another way to pay for it, they might be able to pass.
"Another option is to break the bill down into pieces, try to pass the most popular measures by themselves. President Obama has said that this bill needs to be passed as a whole in order to be the most effective, but that may not end up being an option."
Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show," senior White House adviser David Plouffe was already looking beyond the bill's fate in the Senate.
"The American Jobs Act is what the economy needs right now - putting teachers back to work, construction workers back to work, tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class. That's what we need to do," Plouffe told anchor Erica Hill. "What the president said last week is if we can't get enough people to vote for it tonight, we're going to keep at it.
"We are going to put as much pressure as we can today on Senators in both parties to vote. Obviously this is just a first chapter in what's going to be an effort over the next couple of months to get as much done for the economy right now," Plouffe said.
In making the case for the bill, the White House cites economists like Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, who predicts that the measure would add 2 percentage points of growth to the economy, add 1.9 million payroll jobs and reduce unemployment by a percentage point. But Republicans point to optimistic predictions about the 2009 measure that didn't come to pass; unemployment hovers just above 9 percent nationwide.
Republicans say the 2009 stimulus measure was an expensive failure and the current plan is just like it.
The president has been struggling in opinion polls, and his crusade for the measure has always been a long shot, given that Republicans control the House and can filibuster at will in the Senate. Mr. Obama has nonetheless pressed for the bitterly divided Congress to pass the measure in its entirety rather than seek compromise with his GOP rivals.
"This is not the time for the usual games or political gridlock in Washington," Mr. Obama said in his weekend radio and Internet address. "Any senator out there who's thinking about voting against this jobs bill needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation."
While Republicans backed the payroll tax cut last year and support elements like continued tax breaks for investments in business equipment, they're adamantly opposed to further spending and say the tax surcharge would strike at small businesses.
"It's not a jobs bill. In our view, it's another stimulus bill," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News last week. "I don't think it'll pass and I don't think it should."