Pressure from Senate Democrats to quickly move to a piece of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill could complicate passage of a package of three spending bills currently on the floor.
“We’ll see,” said a Senate GOP aide of whether the spending bill could get caught in the partisan fight over a measure aimed at job creation. The aide noted that the priority last week was more squarely on considering and passing the appropriations bills.
With Senate Democrats eager to wrap up the spending measures as soon as possible, Republicans are concerned that they will not be given adequate opportunity to get votes on amendments. However, they remain cautiously hopeful that they will get their due.
The GOP aide’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday that after clearing the spending package, the Senate will move to provide $35 billion in aid for cities and counties to keep teachers, firefighters and police on the job.
The proposal is part of Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill and would save a total of about 400,000 jobs, including roughly 300,000 teaching positions, according to Reid.
“We cannot wait to create jobs,” Reid said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “That is why I will bring this bill up for a vote as soon as possible.
“There is no reason we cannot finish the appropriations bills before the end of the week and have a vote on this jobs bill,” Reid continued. “I am happy to keep the Senate in session as long as needed to make sure we get a vote on this jobs bill.”
The threat of losing part of next week’s scheduled recess to what most Republicans see as a political vote on the president’s agenda could affect their willingness to cooperate on the appropriations bill.
In a move that is likely to further irritate Republicans, the teachers’ jobs bill will be paid for with a portion of the tax on millionaires that Senate Democrats have proposed to pay for the entire $447 billion package.
Democrats lost a vote on that bigger package last week, largely because Republicans banded together to prevent it from coming to the floor.
Senate Democrats and the president Monday sharpened attacks on Republican “obstructionism” as they outlined plans to split Obama’s billion jobs bill into several chunks, despite the fact that the measures will not likely get out of the Senate.
“We are going to break up my jobs bill; maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once,” Obama said in a speech Monday in Asheville, N.C., where he began a three-day bus tour. “So we are going to break it up into bite-sized pieces, so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation.”
The president added, “So this week I am going to ask Members of Congress to vote on one component of the plan, which is whether we should put hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the class room, and cops back on the street and fire fighters back to work.”
The president’s proposal will support state and local efforts to retain, rehire and hire early childhood, elementary and secondary educators, including teachers, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, after-school personnel, tutors and literacy and math coaches, according to the White House.
These efforts will help ensure that schools are able to keep teachers in the classroom, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and also support important after-school activities.
Obama also called on Congress to take up a provision from his jobs bill that would fund infrastructure projects, provide aid and training to the unemployed, and force a vote on raising taxes on wealthier Americans.
“So those are the choices that Members of Congress are going to face in the coming weeks,” Obama said. “If they vote against these proposals again ... then they are not going have to answer to me; they are going to have to answer to you.”
Senate Republicans argue that the Democrats’ stimulus policy has not worked. They cite as proof the fact that Democrats have sought funding for government jobs for the past two years: $53.6 billion in the 2009 stimulus bill, $26 billion in 2010 for teachers and states and now $35 billion in 2011.
“It is disappointing that Senate Democrats are still focused on the same temporary stimulus spending that’s failed to solve our jobs crisis instead of bipartisan legislation that would lead to private-sector job growth,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a release Monday.
“Democrats have a choice: They can try to divide the country along partisan fault lines for the sake of an election that is still 13 months away, or they can work with us on passing bipartisan legislation — such as tax reform, domestic energy production, regulatory reform — that gets at the root of the jobs crisis now,” McConnell said.
But first the Senate must consider the spending package, which is made up of three appropriations bills: Commerce, Justice and science; Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending measures.
The package is expected to draw a number of amendments, including a possible proposal from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) that would allow armed citizens with state-approved concealed-carry permits to cross into another state that also allows the carrying of concealed weapons. Thune has not yet decided whether to offer the proposal to the CJS bill.