Good Luck, Chuck
Tomasky, Michael, Newsweek
Byline: Michael Tomasky
Obama's jobs plan is going nowhere. New York's Senator Schumer may be the best hope to save it.
The next three months will be crucial to determining whether Barack Obama has a reasonable shot at reelection or whether he's toast. A lot of that hinges on the fate of the jobs plan the president announced with such fanfare to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8. Right now it doesn't look good. On Oct. 11 the Senate, to no one's surprise, voted down the comprehensive $447 billion package. And then last Thursday a smaller piece of the bill--$35 billion to rehire more than 400,000 teachers, cops, and firefighters who have been laid off by cash-strapped states--failed, too, falling far short of the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, a body where Republicans now require a supermajority on every major piece of legislation.
Whether any remaining portion of the original jobs bill will make it through the Senate will largely depend on the inside role played by Charles E. "Chuck" Schumer--not the White House's favorite Democrat, but one it's been listening to more and more lately. It was Schumer--the sharp-elbowed three-term senator from Brooklyn--who urged the president during the debt-ceiling fight to toughen his rhetoric and start calling out Republicans (he didn't then; he is now). He also devised the strategy of breaking the jobs bill into smaller pieces and forcing the Republicans to vote against its most popular parts.
Anything the Democrats manage to push through will be financed by the so-called millionaire's tax, a surtax on dollars earned above $1 million, which would hit just 0.2 percent of the population. Schumer first floated the idea last December, when Obama was negotiating with Republicans about extending the Bush tax cuts. Going back to 2001, when the tax cuts were enacted, "wealthy" meant $250,000. But that level could include successful working couples who were well off but not exactly rich. And, as Republicans constantly reminded people, it could include small businesses. …