Republicans are sleeping on the jobs bill. Democrats need to move on before it's too late

McConnell declared that "100% of our focus" is on "stopping" progress — time for Biden to take him seriously

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published May 20, 2021 12:53PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty images)
Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty images)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is worried. Congressional Republicans have tied up President Joe Biden and other Democrats in endless "negotiations" over the American Jobs Plan and Gillibrand, for good reason, believes Republicans are just trying to hamstring the administration. Speaking with Politico for a piece published Wednesday morning, the Democratic senator from New York called on Biden to end negotiations and pass a bill through the budget reconciliation process, which would only require Democratic votes, instead of endlessly compromising to snag Republican votes that are never coming. 

"I do not think that the White House should relegate recovery to the judgment of Mitch McConnell, because he will not function in good faith," Gillibrand explained. 

Gillibrand has every reason to be concerned. Democrats have been down this path before. Republicans will dangle the possibility of passing that holy grail, "bipartisan" legislation, in order to mire Democrats in endless, go-nowhere negotiations that only ever serve to shrink Democratic ambitions but never seem to actually produce any of those badly desired Republican votes. It's especially frustrating to see this trick being played on Biden, who was vice president when Republicans did this to then-President Barack Obama on the Affordable Care Act. It was eventually passed, in a shrunken form, without a single Republican vote. Biden saw Obama's hopes for immigration reform slowly snuffed out by Republicans who were able to run out the clock with fake "negotiations." 

Even now, Republicans are playing this game with the creation of a commission to investigate the insurrection on January 6. Democrats met all the demands laid out by Republican leaders in drafting the plans for the commission, but the vast majority of Republicans in the House nonetheless voted against it, and the Senate GOP leadership has made it clear they plan to kill it with a filibuster. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already admitted that stalling and killing Biden's ambitions is his plan. He told reporters earlier this month that "100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration," reminiscent of when he said, "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." As many with a Twitter profile quoting the poet Maya Angelou would say, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." 

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Yet Biden's response to having McConnell quoted at him was entirely dismissive.

"He said that in our last administration," Biden claimed of McConnell, "I was able to get a lot done with him."

As usual, one dearly hopes that Biden is BS-ing to appease the people who are still committed to the myth of bipartisanship, because, well, this is Mitch McConnell we're talking about. This is the same man who literally refused, for nearly a year, to hold a single hearing for Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and who then violated the Constitution by seating a justice nominated by the next president, Donald Trump. One of the reasons McConnell enjoys flaunting his obstructionist desires to the press is because he's trolling. He knows that quisling Democrats, afraid of being accused of being "partisan," will pretend that they didn't hear the plain words he spoke. 

Republicans have long been showing us who they are: People who will tank the American economy in hopes that will get a Democratic president blamed and they'll reap the rewards at the ballot box. Republican governors across the country are currently in the process of literally turning away free money for their own constituents, by shutting down the expanded unemployment insurance programs offered under Biden's American Rescue Plan.

The logic they're operating under isn't especially obscure. Unemployment insurance is up there with food assistance as one of the simplest and most efficient ways to bolster the economy, by getting money directly into the hands of people who, out of economic necessity, will immediately turn around and spend it. By cutting that money off, Republicans threaten the fragile economic recovery and the eventual success of Biden's presidency. Even though it will absolutely be their own fault, Republicans will blame Biden is the economy tanks when they run against his record in the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential elections. 

The good news is that Biden and Democrats have the power to keep boosting the economy. They must pass the American Jobs Plan, quickly and without a bunch of concessions to Republicans who aren't going to vote for it anyway. A cash infusion that invests in infrastructure will help create jobs and get the economy clicking again, which could help make up for the loss of consumer spending Republicans are trying to force by deliberately cutting Americans off of unemployment. 

But in order for that to happen, the damn bill has to actually pass, and soon.

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On Monday, a group of progressive legislators sent a letter to Democratic leadership underscoring this exact point, pointing out that "the previous unanimity of Congressional Republican opposition to the American Rescue Plan" — not a single Republican voted for the wildly popular bill — should be an incentive to move forward with a robust jobs bill now instead of letting Republicans weigh it down with bad faith negotiations. 

Of course, one theory about Biden's strategy here is not that he's trying to get Republican votes, but that this is a dog-and-pony show for Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom are cobbled by terminal cases of "Morning Joe" brain and are thus unable to let go of the myth of "bipartisanship," no matter how many times Republicans gleefully refuse to work with the Democratic majority. And so, the thinking goes, these two need to see with their own eyes how Republicans are never going to agree with anything before they reluctantly move forward to pass a bill without them. 

It may be the case that the problem children are Manchin and Sinema, and not Biden and other Democratic leaders. But still, the ultimate problem remains: Any time spent on fake "negotiations" with Republicans is time wasted, and every moment wasted is a moment in which Democratic hopes of winning in 2022 and 2024 — which are already dim, due to gerrymandering and outright GOP cheating — fade even further. If there's any hope of Democrats retaining power, they need to get the economy moving and, ideally, to pass bills to protect voting rights. Letting Republicans waste time so that Democrats can do neither isn't just bad for the American people, it's political suicide, drawn out slowly each day that these crucial bills are fake-negotiated instead of brought up for a vote in Congress. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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