October 12, 2011

Full debate on jobs bill blocked by Republicans

In a vote that the president called a 'moment of truth,' senators decide to keep his proposal from advancing.

BY DAVID NAKAMURA and ROSALIND S. HELDERMAN, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - President Obama's $447 billion jobs plan foundered Tuesday night in the Senate as a unified Republican caucus and a pair of Democrats joined to deny the proposal the 60 votes necessary to allow it to proceed to full consideration.

The president continued to travel around the country promoting the plan, speaking Tuesday at a union training center in Pittsburgh.

Obama will now use Republican opposition as part of a campaign to paint the GOP as obstructionists blocking his efforts to improve the economy while offering no alternative to create jobs.

Although a number of Democrats who will face tough re-election efforts next year had wavered in support, only two voted not to allow the measure to advance, a symbolic victory for Obama and Senate Democratic leaders, who knew that strong Democratic opposition would be an embarrassment for the White House.

"The president's plan contains many ideas Republicans have consistently supported over the years, especially when their party controlled Congress, the White House or both," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "Republicans oppose those ideas now. ... I guess Republicans think if the economy improves, it might help President Obama."

Senior White House officials said the vote was the first step to spur action on job creation. Next, they said, Obama will work with Senate leaders to break the jobs bill down into its parts, which polls show are very popular with voters, and challenge Republicans to reject each individually.

They think Republicans will find it hard to deny the extension of a break on payroll taxes for workers, worth about $1,000 a year to the average family.

"This will just be the first act in a long-term play here over the next couple of months," a senior White House official said hours before Tuesday night's vote. "Either one, we get a lot of this done and it's good for the economy, which is our preference. Or we don't, and the American people know why."

A senior Senate Democratic aide confirmed that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has been shopping a plan to package the creation of an infrastructure bank to fund transportation improvements, an element of Obama's jobs bill, with a proposal favored by many Republicans to offer corporations a tax break if they return offshore earnings to the United States.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine joined other Republicans in voting no, but both said there are a number of job-creating elements in the package that are worth support.

"Job creation is indisputably our nation"s number one priority, and there are elements of the president"s package that Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree upon," Snowe said in a statement after the vote. "Unfortunately, yet again the Senate was faced with a take it or leave it package to which no amendments would be allowed on this bill with massive and wide-ranging implications."

Collins also charged that Republicans were faced with a "take or leave it proposition."

Republicans said they have always preferred negotiating the package piece by piece, and said the vote was an effort to turn the debate into a political bludgeon.

Collins said in a statement that, "The bill considered today has some elements that could garner overwhelming bipartisan support such as a payroll tax deduction for employees and employers. It would also provide tax incentives to encourage the hiring of our veterans, another good idea. We should consider and pass these and other proposals on which there is agreement."

Republicans note that both chambers will vote this week on new free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, deals supported by both parties and advocated by Obama for months.

(Continued on page 2)

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