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CQ Roll Call: Congress' Partisan Tone and Obama's Job Speech

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David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, gives an analysis of this week's top news on Capitol Hill, as Congress comes back into session and President Barack Obama prepares his jobs speech.

The partisan tone in Congress

"Sadly, there is not much reason to believe that the tone in Congress will change," says Hawkings. "This is a pit of partisan rancor and distrust that is deeper than any I have seen, and I've been in Washington since the eighties. When something as simple as the scheduling of a President speech can't be done between grown-up political players without being on the front page of every newspaper, you know it's pretty bad."

President Obama's speech on jobs and the economy

The big question inside the White House is how ambitious the President should be in his jobs speech Thursday at 7 p.m. Liberals in his base want him to swing big and talk about old-school Democratic priorities -- like big public works projects.

"That stuff doesn't stand a chance," says Hawkings. "But Democrats want him to talk about it anyway to remind people what Democrats are all about."

More likely he'll go for something more modest and centrist, but there's very little reason to believe Republicans will go for that either.

One of the things they're talking about is extending and expanding the payroll tax holiday. He wants to extend and expand that to reduce the amount that employers pay.

"This is a Republican idea -- they were for it a few years ago, but now they're against it," Hawkings notes. "It's sort of like the old Marx Brothers routine, 'whatever they're for, I'm against.'"

Reception for the speech

There's a freshman Republican named Joe Walsh from Illinois who put out a press release saying that he was going to stay home because he didn't want to be a prop for the President. It seems like it's going to be one of those classic TV moments where the Republicans will sit on their hands and the Democrats will applaud everything he says.

"I think he will get a tepid response," Hawkings says. "Republicans are jumping on him this morning for the jobs numbers -- it's at 9.1 percent, no net losses or gains in jobs. The Republicans are hammering him on that and I don't expect that to change next week."

Super committee on deficit reduction

The super committee is getting on a slightly bi-partisan start -- they agreed on Mark Prater to be the staff director, who will be the chief non-elected official on the committee. There's some reason to believe that because they picked somebody who is both a Republican and a tax expert, that maybe the Republicans would be more willing to talk about revenue than they were this summer.


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