Last night, after Max Baucus and Charles Grassley spent weeks negotiating a bipartisan jobs bill, Harry Reid scuttled their efforts and put forward his own $15 billion plan. Democrats, Republicans, and the White House all were caught off guard. Reid's new plan is limited to the Schumer-Hatch payroll tax credit, highway spending, and a few other measly programs. That bellow you hear is the Obama-isn't-liberal-enough left.
Reid’s decision takes the second stimulus package cost down from $85 billion to $15 billion. That may please fiscal conservatives, but it sets up an embarrassing problem for Barack Obama. No one believes that his $787 billion Porkulus package, now repriced to $862 billion, worked to create jobs, but the Left wing of Democrats thinks it didn’t work because the Democrats didn’t spend enough money. Obama himself has promised a “hard pivot” to job creation and built expectations for a large-scale effort. A $15 billion program that only contains the silly payroll-tax exemption that gives businesses a maximum $6000 for every person they hire and keep all year, more highway project money, a business tax deduction that amounts to a whopping $35 million over 10 years, and a program allowing states to borrow money at a lower interest rate will not only not create jobs, but it will make a laughingstock of the notion that Congress or Obama is taking the problem seriously.
Also note that the Reid bill is about a tenth of the size of the House bill. Will Pelosi like Reid's version any better?
The chances that Obama's latest top priority will expire in conference just increased. If that happens, and the Democrats fail to pass health care via budget reconciliation, his agenda will be a total shambles. The left will abandon him. Discontent with Washington will continue to grow. A "campaign of brazen honesty with the American people" won't be any help, either. That only would make Obama look like a scold (which he already is).
Ensconced in the cocoon, the White House may continue to believe that polling shows an "Edge for Obama Over G.O.P. Among the Public." Such illusions may be comforting. But they are also dangerous.
Then again, at least the White House won't have to worry about Harry Reid a year from now.