WAMU 88.5 : All Things Considered

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The Hill: Senate Votes On Obama's Jobs Bill, Bernanke On Capitol Hill

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President Barack Obama has been traveling around the U.S., urging Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs package, but Democrats and Republicans aren't in agreement about whether that's the way to go. Alex Bolton, senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper, talks with WAMU All Things Considered host Pat Brogan about the bill, as well as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's appearance on Capitol Hill this week.

Senate tussles over Obama's jobs plan

Senate Republicans on Tuesday tried to force a quick vote on the Obama jobs plan, but Democrats balked because they are still uncertain about how much support they can muster within their own ranks for the bill. 

The GOP Senators' motivation was to "expose the defections within the Democratic caucus," says Bolton. "They're betting the jobs program is unpopular with Democrats facing election, especially in swing states." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to accomplish this very move earlier this year, when he forced a vote on President Obama's budget plan, which quickly failed.

It's not clear at this point what the leadership will do to address the objections of members of Congress about raising taxes in a depressed economy. The Democratic leadership has said it will put forward a new set of proposals to pay for the $447 billion jobs plan, but details of what would be included there have not been released. 

"It could be just as controversial as what the president proposed," says Bolton. "Because when you're looking to raise that much money, you're going to be cutting other programs or raising taxes, which isn't popular."

Bernanke paints grim picture

When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appeared before Congress today, he said the economy is at risk of slowing down, according to Bolton. He also said there's only so much the Fed can do to stimulate the economy -- the rest is up to Congress. 

"He said Congress needs to pursue policies that improve the nation's fiscal picture," Bolton says. "However, he cautioned lawmakers not to cut too aggressively right away because that could stall growth." 

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