Democrats declared victory after the Senate voted by the narrowest margin to begin debate on a bill that would spend $6.5 billion on new benefits for unemployed people, without any budget offsets or regulatory reforms.
“We have the momentum,” White House press secretary Jay Carney declared shortly after the vote.
“The president believes that this is an emergency situation. … Congress should follow the admirable lead of the Senate,” Carney said, while dismissing GOP requests for a compromise deal that would include offsetting budget cuts or economy-boosting reforms.
The Senate vote is a win for Obama’s 2014 campaign, in which he’s working to shift the public debate away from his imploding Obamacare network and his failed economic policies.
Democrats want to persuade voters to back their claim that greater government action can correct the problems created during the recent recession and slow recovery.
On Tuesday, Democrats got 60 votes to begin a debate on their planned spending increase, after six GOP senators lined up with the Democrats.
Unless those GOP senators vote with other GOP senators to block an end to the debate, Democrats will be able to get Senate approval of their spending plan.
That approval would allow the Democrats and allied media outlets to blame the GOP-controlled House throughout 2014 for not passing the spending bill — and so also to blame them for the sufferings of people who can’t find a job in Obama’s economy.
Obama used a White House campaign-style event Tuesday to stigmatize the GOP’s opposition to the spending increase.
His staged P.R. event showcased a Connecticut widow, Katherine Hackett, who was used to focus reporters on the sufferings of unemployed people, rather than the Democrats’ economic policies or their 2014 election strategy.
After a few comments by Hackett, during which she described how she lives in a badly heated house after her two sons had joined the military, Obama stepped in and described his prior conversation with Hackett.
“Katherine went on to say, ‘I’ve applied to everything for which I’m possibly qualified, to no avail. I’ve worked hard all my life, paid taxes, voted, engaged in political discussion and made the ultimate sacrifice: My two sons serve in the U.S. military,’” he declared.
“So when we’ve got the mom of two of our troops who is working hard out there but is having to wear a coat inside the house, we’ve got a problem, and it’s one that can be fixed,” Obama announced.
New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer has said that Democrats are open to offsetting the spending, only if the offset is “reasonable.”
GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, say they’d like to extend unemployment-insurance benefits for another year, at a cost of $25 billion.
But they say they want to package the spending with budget savings and other reforms. McConnell’s plan is a “non-starter” that “will not pass,” Schumer said.
The Democratic-staged fight serves to drag public and media attention from the Obamacare implosion, and also to portray the November elections as a battle over economic inequality.