Strike Two for Obama’s ‘Jobs’ Package
In a 50-50 test vote -with three Democrats joining every Republican -- the Senate rejected legislation that would have supported jobs for teachers and first responders.
The $35-billion "Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act" would have given state and local government $30 billion in taxpayer funds to hire teachers and others in the education field. It also included $5 billion in taxpayer funds to help pay the salaries of police officers and firefighters.
After the vote, President Obama painted Republicans as the obstructionists, ignoring the fact that Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted against the pared-down bill.
"For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again," Obama said in a statement. "Every American deserves an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what's necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now."
Republicans have dismissed Obama's jobs bill as a second stimulus that has nothing to do with real job creation.
"I support a real jobs plan," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "I don't think what we voted on today is a real jobs plan. I think it's another bailout of local governments."
Rubio said he has four teachers and two firefighters in his family - "and no one supports them or values them more than I do. On the other hand, we have a federal government that's running a massive debt. We cannot afford to be bailing out local governments, and we can't afford stimulus 2.0. We can't afford another stimulus program, which is what the President is proposing."
Rubio and other Republicans are pressing Obama to work on a plan that both parties can agree on.
For example, members of both parties have expressed support for spending on infrastructure projects, another piece of the president's bill.
After rejecting a key piece of Obama's jobs plan, the Senate on Thursday night took up a Republican bill that would bar the government from withholding 3 percent of payments to government contractors. That bill failed on a 57-43 vote, even though 10 Democrats voted with Republicans to advance it.
Many Democrats and Obama support the idea, but opposed it Thursday because it would be paid for with $30 billion in cuts from domestic agency spending. Advocates of repealing the withholding requirement say it will help create jobs, especially from contractors on large projects with smaller profit margins.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said the government contractor proposal should pass with unanimous, bipartisan support: "It's in the President's own bill," McConnell noted. "The White House said Monday that every part of the President's bill is equally important. This legislation should get unanimous support."
McConnell called it another example of "something we could do for job creators that we know will actually become law."
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)