The U.S. Senate has blocked President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan, with two Democrats joining the Republican minority to defeat the bill in a test vote. Yesterday’s tally for the measure, which Obama has said will help revive the faltering economy, was 50 in favor, 49 opposed — it needed 60 votes to advance. The measure, in its current form, has now been shelved.
The president’s bill includes cuts in payroll taxes for workers and employers, would provide new funding for infrastructure projects, and would give state and local governments billions of dollars to prevent the layoffs of teachers and first responders. Aspects of the president’s proposal could still be salvaged if there is enough support for any specific provision.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the measure a “lousy idea” that relies on proposals similar to the $825 billion stimulus in 2009, an effort that he says failed to work. “If voting against another stimulus is the only way we can get Democrats in Washington to finally abandon this failed approach to job creation, then so be it,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
Senate Democratic leaders revised the president’s initial proposal last week, removing certain measures that might meet with opposition within their own party. Obama’s proposed method for paying for the jobs plan, which included higher taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year, was among the casualties. Senate leaders instead wrote in a 5.6% surtax on people making at least $1 million annually. Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska still opposed the plan.
Before the Senate voted yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of attempting to hinder the economic recovery for their own political benefit. Reid said that Republicans are now opposing job-creation ideas they once supported. “Republicans oppose those ideas now because they have a proven track record of creating jobs, and Republicans think if the economy improves it might help President Obama,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “So they root for the economy to fail, and oppose every effort to improve it.” Republicans, who already control the U.S. House of Representatives, are trying to take control of the Senate and the White House in 2012.
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Despite the bill’s defeat, Obama has vowed to press ahead and at least get individual provisions of his plan passed by Congress. “Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight,” Obama said in a statement yesterday. As they vote on each component, “members of Congress can either explain to their constituents why they’re against commonsense, bipartisan proposals to create jobs, or they can listen to the overwhelming majority of American people who are crying out for action.”