Obama aides give different forecasts for WH flexibility with jobs plan

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Two of President Barack Obama’s aides are singing slightly off-key today, with one saying the president wants his proposed $447 billion stimulus approved intact, and another saying he would sign a shortened version of the bill.

But such discord doesn’t matter because the bill was designed to fail, said Brian Darling at the Heritage Foundation, adding that the president wants the stimulus bill to fail so he can blame the GOP for the stalled economy.

“It is part of their re-election strategy to have Congress block it, and so it has been crafted to make it impossible for Republicans to pass it.”

The White House will likely issue a clarification soon, though the president is in Ohio today to advertise the school repair program in the stimulus bill he outlined during his Sept. 8 speech to a joint session of Congress.

This morning’s contradictory statements came from David Axelrod, who runs Obama’s re-election campaign, and from Gene Sperling, one of the president’s senior domestic policy advisers.

“The president has a package. The package works together. We need to do many things to get this economy moving and people back to work,” Axelrod said in appearance on ABC’s morning show. “We’re not in a negotiation to break up the package… It is not an a la carte menu. It is a strategy to get this country moving.”

Sperling urged passage of the complete bill, but endorsed passing of the full measure in several complementary bills during a morning speech at the right-of-center American Action Forum. The plan “works best together [but passage of some pieces would be]… partial progress, and [the president] would fight and fight and fight to get the other portions through,” he said.

That’s a more conciliatory tone than that struck by Axelrod, who also told viewers that “tokenism isn’t enough. We want them to pass the plan. The American people want them to pass the plan, we don’t want them to play games.”

Top Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor, say they’ll incorporate some of Obama’s proposals in a compromise bill alongside some of their own proposals. Cantor has also repeatedly rejected Obama’s demand that the bill be passed intact and rapidly.

The Democrats’ desire for a disagreement in D.C. will be tested once the GOP passes a bill that combines Republican and Obama proposals, said Darling. Should Obama reject a compromise deal, “it will be further evidence that this [bill] is a purely political exercise” intended only to help Obama get re-elected, he said.

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