A bad jobs report: Economy adds just 39,000 jobs in November and unemployment rate jumps to 9.8%... Also a bad 24 hours for political pragmatism… The deficit doesn’t hold with the deficit commission, as it won’t get the supermajority today to move the proposal to Congress…. It’s a victory for interest-group politics… Democrats don’t play political hardball as well as Republicans do… Second day of DADT testimony on Capitol Hill… And Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Kerry to appear on “Meet the Press.”
*** A bad jobs report: Before we get to the political news of the day, we have to start with what is a stomach punch to folks on Wall Street and the West Wing -- and that's the November job numbers. Expectations were running high that this could be the best report in not just months, but a few years. Um, oops. Today’s numbers aren’t good at all. Per the AP, a total of just 39,000 jobs (and 50,000 private-sector ones) were created last month -- which was FAR below the expectations of approximately 150,000 jobs (thanks to ADP's numbers). In addition, the unemployment rate jumped from 9.6% to 9.8%. This news will probably only strengthen the GOP's hand in the tax fight. Now to Washington...
*** A bad 24 hours for political pragmatism: Simply put, it’s been a bad 24 hours for political pragmatism -- from the legislative temper tantrums on Capitol Hill, to the inability of the deficit commission to get a supermajority to agree on shared sacrifice. Why is Congress wasting time voting on tax-cut bills that can't pass now when 1) they could have done this months ago if they really wanted to make a political point before an ACTUAL election, or 2) they could actually propose a compromise that might actually pass? After all, the legislative clock is ticking. And it’s just not the Democrats voting on tax-cut legislation unlikely to pass that's part of this temper-tantrum disease going around Washington. Yesterday, we also saw a single anonymous GOP senator force votes on Saturday; GOP Sen. Jim DeMint threaten to filibuster new START; and Harry Reid walk into Mitch McConnell’s office to negotiate -- when McConnell had already left for the evening. All in all, it’s one of those times when Washington looks absurd and out of touch with the rest of the country.
*** The center doesn’t hold: As we predicted, the center was unlikely to ever hold with President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission. Just when it looked like the final proposal, which will be voted on today, was picking up greater-than-expected support, folks from both the left and the right jumped ship yesterday -- thanks to interest-group pressure from the ideological bases. Right now, there are 10 members who are yes votes (co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson; GOP Sens. Tom Coburn, Mike Crapo, and Judd Gregg; Dem Sens. Kent Conrad and Dick Durbin; former Clinton OMB Director Alice Rivlin; businesswoman Ann Fudge; and Honeywell CEO David Cote). There are six no votes (GOP Reps. Dave Camp, Jeb Hensarling, and Paul Ryan; Dem Rep. Jan Schakowsky; Dem Sen. Max Baucus; and former SEIU head Andy Stern). And there are two undeclared votes (Dem Reps. Xavier Becerra and John Spratt). So that’s a majority, but not the supermajority -- 14 out of 18 commission members -- needed to move the proposal to Congress.
*** A victory for interest-group politics: If you can’t get 14 out of 18 from this group -- consisting of some of Washington’s most practical politicians -- then it’s unlikely you’ll see major deficit reduction from the next Congress, unless there’s a clear emergency or crisis. Pure and simple, this is a victory for interest-group politics. Grover Norquist (who’s opposed any tax increases) and Richard Trumka (who’s opposed to any touching of Social Security) won. But as Politics Daily’s Jill Lawrence asks, do Democrats really want to pull out of the deficit-reduction game at a time when they still control the White House and Senate? Similarly, Republicans are unlikely to ever get a better deal from a Democratic president than the current occupant of the White House. That said, it will be interesting to see if the proposal getting 10 or 11 votes could serve as a mandate for the White House and the next Congress to tackle deficit reduction. But we’re not holding our breath.
*** Two other points on the commission: Here are two other points on the deficit commission. One, the U.S. senators have been more likely to support the proposal. With the exception of Baucus (whose opposition apparently is less about ideology and about something else; simply, it's Baucus being Baucus), all the senators on the panel (Coburn, Conrad, Crapo, Gregg, and Durbin) are yes votes. But the House members (Camp, Hensarling, Ryan, Schakowsky) are opposed, with two undecideds (Becerra and Spratt). Second, the commission’s co-chairs get plenty of credit for creating an honest conversation about reducing the deficit. "I don't know if we're going to get two votes or five votes or 10 votes or 14 votes,” Bowles said earlier this week. “But one thing is certain: The problem is real. The solutions are painful. And there are no easy choices."
*** Democrats don’t play political hardball as well as Republicans do: Want another example of how Republicans play political hardball better than Democrats do? Just look what happened after yesterday’s House vote extending only middle-class tax cuts. We noticed only a few Democratic press releases accusing Republicans of voting against tax cuts for 98% of Americans (and thus accusing them of raising these folks’ taxes). If the shoe had been on the other foot, however, Republicans would have mercilessly pounded Democrats for weeks -- if not months. The recent Charlie Rangel and John Ensign stories are instructive here, too. Republicans were relentless that the news of Rangel’s wrongdoings never got dropped. On the other hand, Democrats essentially gave up on Ensign’s woes. And lo and behold, it now looks like Ensign is no longer a Justice Department target. And Rangel's been censured on the House floor. Republicans just play the political message game better than Democrats do.
*** DADT on the Hill, Day 2: At 9:00 am ET, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hear a second day of testimony regarding the Pentagon’s report on gays serving in the military. Testifying will be Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs; Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army’s chief of staff; Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations; Marine Commandant James F. Amos; Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, chief of staff of the Air Force; and Admiral Robert J. Papp, commandant of the Coast Guard.
*** If it’s Sunday… : Here’s the “Meet the Press” lineup for Sunday: GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, Dem Sen. John Kerry, and a roundtable consisting of the New York Times’ Tom Friedman, the BBC’s Katty Kay, the Times’ David Brooks, and GOP strategist Mike Murphy.
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