Dueling Jobs Bills

by Andrew Stiles

Late last night, the Senate voted to block President Obama’s latest “jobs” proposal, consisting of $35 billion in federal subsidies to state and local governments (“bailout lite,” as the described by the editors).

The measure failed on a 50-50 vote, falling well short of the 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster. Two Democrats — Sens. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) — and Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) joined all 47 Republicans in rejecting the bill.

The Senate also voted down another “piece” of the president’s jobs package offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) that would have eliminated a much-maligned provision allowing federal and local agencies to withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors. Current law mandates that government contractors pay 3 percent of federal contracts up front as a down-payment on future taxes. McConnell described the measure as a “very sensible provision in the president’s second stimulus bill that would help businesses across the  country.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), meanwhile, dismissed it as a “misdirected stunt.” Reid insisted that he believed the measure should be repealed, but said “it should be done the right way”(meaning paid for with tax increases).

Indeed, most Democrats balked at McConnell’s proposal to offset the cost of the bill, which would have been paid for by rescinding about $30 billion in unobligated funds from federal agencies. The offset has been supported by Democrats in the past. However, the White House denounced the tactic, arguing that it would lead to a “serious disruption in a range of services.”

Ultimately, the Republican measure fared much better than the Democratic one, falling short by just three votes, 57-43. Ten Democrats, including moderates and members facing difficult reelections in 2012, voted yes on the bill. They were: Kay Hagan (N.C.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Al Franken (Minn.) Ben Nelson (Neb.) Michael Bennet (Colo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Joe Manchin (W. Va.).

Obama and Biden, et al., can complain all they want about Congress’ inability to pass the White House jobs plan, whether it be all at once or piece by piece. But at the end of the day, there remains consistent bipartisan opposition to the administration’s proposals. So far, the only piece of the president’s plan that has come close to passing is a measure that Republicans introduced. Go figure.

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