President Obama said Monday he will personally lobby congressional leaders to hold a vote on his new jobs-stimulus proposal, but barely an hour later, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor once again pronounced the legislation dead as written.
Both sides continue to jostle for political advantage as they search for solutions to the country’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate, but middle ground remained elusive as Congress returned from a weeklong vacation and began what’s likely to be the final chance for major non-spending bills to pass.
The president said he will call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican; House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, in the next few days to urge them to pass his legislation.
“We still have to have congressional action,” Mr. Obama said at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the White House, where he assembled his top advisers to talk about jobs. “It’s been several weeks now since I sent up the American Jobs Act, and, as I’ve been saying on the road, I want it back. I’m ready to sign it.”
His proposal, which he submitted and had introduced as actual legislation, would front-load $447 billion in short-term tax cuts and infrastructure spending over the next several years, offset by long-term tax increases that would net $467 billion over the next decade.
His main obstacle, though, is that there’s widespread opposition to those tax increases, including within his own party — a point underscored by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who said last week Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the bill yet.
And Mr. Reid, who controls the upper chamber’s floor schedule and who is the Senate sponsor of Mr. Obama’s legislation, continues to give other bills priority. This week, the Senate is working on a bill to impose compensatory tariffs on imports from countries that manipulate their currency — a move that targets China.
“I don’t think there could be a more important piece of legislation right now,” Mr. Reid said ahead of a test vote Monday night, on which it passed easily 79-19.
He did, though, vow to hold a vote on Mr. Obama’s bill by the end of October.
House Republican leaders wouldn’t go that far, despite pleas from House Democrats to submit the bill to committees for hearings and debate.
Asked whether the president’s $447 billion package was dead, Mr. Cantor flatly replied, “Yes.”
“The president continues to say ‘Pass my bill in its entirety.’ And as I have said from the outset, the all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable,” Mr. Cantor said.
Some of Mr. Obama’s proposals could be wrapped up in the work of the supercommittee, the 12-member panel formed by this past summer’s debt deal and charged with recommending at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.
The committee has a deadline of Thanksgiving, but all sides say they would like to take quicker action on jobs, if an agreement could be reached.
But in another sign both sides are talking past each other, Mr. Obama on Monday once again called for House Republicans to specify which parts of his package they would be willing to accept.
House Republicans said they’ve done so, pointing to a Sept. 16 memo from their leaders to rank-and-file House members laying out areas of agreement, including extending business-expense write-offs, expanding federal infrastructure spending, offering incentives to businesses that hire veterans and working on more middle-class tax cuts.
They also pointed to three free-trade agreements, which Mr. Obama submitted to Congress on Monday, as another area of cooperation.
The memo, though, rejected Mr. Obama’s proposed tax increases and his pledge of more money to help states and localities avoid layoffs of public employees.
Seeking to add their own proposals to the mix, Republican House leaders on Monday sent the president a letter outlining the two measures the House will vote on this week, to delay the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing new regulations Republicans say would cost millions in compliance costs for employers.
“It is our hope that in the spirit of putting country before party, you will call on the Senate to follow the House in passing these measures, and commit to signing them into law should they reach your desk,” they told the president.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday that Mr. Obama would be willing to consider signing some pieces of his overall, if Congress were to pass them piecemeal.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.