Senate Republicans, joined by three conservative members of the Democratic caucus, blocked a floor debate on a key portion of President Obama’s jobs bill, which would have provided states $35 billion to hire or retain teachers and emergency responders.
The final tally on the late Thursday vote was 50-50, with Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) voting with the entire Republican caucus to support the filibuster. The GOP continues to oppose all economic stimulus proposals that involve spending money on jobs, and take even greater exception to Obama’s jobs bills, which pays for that spending with a small surtax on millionaires.
Democrats expected the legislation to fail, but plan to use routine GOP obstruction to strengthen the narrative that the Republican party is unwilling to help improve the economy, or to raise taxes on wealthy people to pay for any of the country’s needs.
To wit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued an official statement after the vote denouncing Republicans for “unanimously block[iing] a bill that would have kept 400,000 teachers in the classroom and first responders on the job because they refuse to ask millionaires to pay their fair share.”
“By asking millionaires to pay an extra half a penny on the dollar, this bill would have created jobs by keeping our communities safe and ensuring that our children continue to have access to a high-quality education,” Reid said. “Unfortunately, protecting millionaires and defeating President Obama are more important to my Republican colleagues than creating jobs and getting our economy back on track.”
Once the filibuster succeeded, Republicans countered by forcing a test vote on a separate section of Obama’s jobs bill — one that repeals a requirement that the government withhold three percent of major contracts to assure contractor compliance with tax laws. The measure itself has some bipartisan support, but as explained here, Republicans proposed paying for it by cutting $30 billion of unobligated funds for federal programs.
Democrats proposed an alternative version that would have been paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, but Republicans objected.
Faced with a veto threat from the White House, Democrats voted to block debate on that bill. In total, 43 Democrats supported the filibuster, 10 voted with the GOP.
Obama proposed abolishing the three percent withholding requirement to entice Republicans to support his legislation — but critics note that it wouldn’t boost the economy, but would allow major government contractors to bilk the government for billions of dollars in tax revenues over 10 years.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.