Senate Democrats are poised to pivot from a near singular focus on comprehensive healthcare reform to a focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, this in the wake of the Massachusetts upset election in which a Republican outsider successfully tapped into voter anger over an out-of-touch Washington and swiped a near-sacred seat from Democrats.
But don't expect sweeping legislation in the area of jobs. Dems might have learned their lesson with healthcare teetering on the brink: take smaller bites of the apple.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, a member of leadership, told reporters Wednesday that she expects a "tight first package" of provisions aimed at lowering the still-high unemployment rate in the country.
Boxer said she expects an extension of the highway bill through December, getting Democrats past the perilous midterm elections when they are all-but-certain to lose seats, as well, Democrats will propose tax help for small businesses, more money for the nation's infrastructure, and "might include" another extension of unemployment insurance benefits and COBRA insurance.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA, also advocated a tax credit for job creation, something laid out in legislation put forward by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI.
President Obama, Boxer said, is expected to note this Senate jobs bill in his State of the Union address tonight.
Though reporters have been given few details, the package Boxer outline sounded pretty big for a first bill. BUT --- Boxer said Democrats plan to pay for it.
The senator advocated, as many Dems do, using TARP funds. Senators are anxious to beat up on Wall Street and the bailouts, an opportunity to show Main Street Americans that they care. Those TARP funds right now, by law, are required to be plowed straight back into the federal coffers to reduce the deficit.
That need to show they care was perhaps best articulated this week by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, as he worked to save the nomination of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who nearly got crushed under the weight of the stampede to beat up fat-cat bankers & Wall Street after Massachusetts. This, he said, was his sales job to his fellow Dems:
"Be acutely aware that what we saw in Massachusetts is being felt across the country. People expect us to move on the economy and the issue of unemployment as quickly as we can, but this is not your only opportunity. A protest vote, or negative vote, on Chairman Bernanke isn’t your only opportunity to show people that you care. We are going to have a chance to have a jobs bill. We are going to have financial regulatory reform…Members are going to have ample opportunity in the months to come to speak out in a very forceful way about moving this economy forward.”