Senate Democrats are poised to take up a bill Monday that they describe as "a carrot and stick approach" to stopping American companies from shipping jobs overseas.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced he will force all members to show up for a rare live quorum Monday night to debate the Democrats' outsourcing bill, this ahead of a key vote Tuesday to determine the bill's fate.
But it is unlikely to garner bipartisan support with Republicans decrying the move as a last minute ploy to score political points and rev up a liberal base that appears to be experiencing an enthusiasm gap when measured against the GOP.
Still, Democrats insisted Friday that though there is likely only one week left on the legislative calendar, their effort is genuine.
"This is the most important issue, jobs," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lead sponsor of the bill, told reporters. "We feel there's a greater sense of urgency at this moment" to try to make "a clear statement" about jobs.
"It's focused. It's not expensive," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, adding that, "I wouldn't regard it as a fait accompli that no Republican will vote for it."Schumer touted his two-year payroll tax holiday in the bill as a "carrot" for companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. and eliminate positions overseas. "We're not trying to kick anybody," he said. "We're just trying to bring jobs back."
Another co-sponsor, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., added a "stick" provision that taxes goods that are returned to the U.S. for sale when the manufacturer of those goods has closed a business in America in order to move abroad.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted the majority for wasting time saying, "this bill will do nothing to create jobs in the United States. Most of the factories the Durbin bill is trying to prevent from moving overseas are not traveling overseas to sell back into the American market, but are moving there to gain competitive advantage over foreign companies in foreign markets - and in doing so create more jobs and more opportunity right here in the United States."
One senior GOP leadership aide said, "Democrats couldn't wrestle their members to the ground on the (Bush) tax cuts, so here we go with another 'reelect Harry Reid' bill."
Republicans have cited a recent string of bills Reid has pulled to the floor this work period that do not enjoy bipartisan support, either for substantive or process reasons, like the immigration legislation called the Dream Act, campaign finance reform known as the Disclose Act, and a repeal of the military's policy on gays serving openly.
Reid had tried to rally his caucus around a pre-election vote to extend only tax cuts for the middle class, but deep divisions and a recalcitrant minority proved too great an obstacle. "We shouldn't be giving corporations tax breaks for moving jobs overseas," cried Reid Friday, as he faces an uphill re-election against a tea party-backed opponent hammering him for the sky-high jobless rate in his state.
McConnell also hit Democrats for increasing the deficit by what he said was $1 billion, according to an analysis he says the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation gave his office.
For his part, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., admitted an increase in the deficit, but he said it's worth it. "What's at stake here are thousands of jobs across America...a very small price to pay to turn this tide," Durbin retorted, citing a price tag of $720 million over 10 years.
"We want to export our products and not our jobs," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters.
Ticking off county after county in his state that is hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the bill makes "common sense" changes in the law for "re-shoring" jobs.
And Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has fought hard for a manufacturing focus in Congress, along with Brown, was at pains to say why Democrats had waited so late in the year to bring up this legislation. "The time is a long overdue for companies to start reinvesting in jobs in America."
Sanders seemed to lay the loss of manufacturing jobs at the feet of a previous president, "During the Bush administration alone...we lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs, nearly 30% of the total." He also noted that the country has the fewest number of manufacturing jobs since World War II.