Undaunted by the defeat of portions of President Barack Obama’s jobs legislation Thursday, Senate Democratic leaders plan to hold a vote on the president’s $60 billion infrastructure proposal the week of Oct. 31, when they return from next week’s recess.
“We believe we have to continue working to try to create jobs,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on a conference call with reporters today.
Democrats and Republicans have been focused on trying to reverse the historically high unemployment rate, which remained at 9.1 percent in September.
To that end, Obama has proposed a $447 billion jobs plan, but the measure last week failed win the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP procedural blockade. Now, Senate Democratic leaders are taking elements of the plan and forcing votes on them. Reid has promised to vote on one element per week for the foreseeable future.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was also on the call, said, “An infusion of [$60 billion] will put thousands of people to work next year.”
“I think we have had enough speeches,” he added. “What we need is some action ... and a transportation bill ... is the best way to put friends and neighbors back to work.”
The proposal would provide $50 billion for transportation infrastructure funding, including $27 billion for highways, $9 billion for transit, $2 billion for airports and $10 billion for innovative financing initiatives.
The proposal also includes $10 billion for the creation of a national infrastructure bank to direct federal resources for infrastructure to projects that demonstrate the most merit and may be difficult to finance under the current patchwork of federal programs.
The bill would be paid for with a 0.7 percent tax on millionaires — a detail that is likely to ensure opposition from most, if not all, Republicans. Still, Reid said he hopes partisanship will not be an issue.
“For too long, Republican Senators have been doing everything they can to defeat President Obama at the expense of our economy,” Reid said. “I urge them to put their political motivations aside and work with us on this common-sense bill to create jobs.”
His comments came after a plan to provide $35 billion to keep teachers and first responders from being laid off failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster Thursday night. The measure would have been paid for by a 0.5 percent tax on those making more than $1 million a year.
Republicans have argued that the job-creation efforts by Democrats are disingenuous and instead are meant to generate fodder for re-election campaigns in 2012, including Obama’s.
The transportation package will also likely not clear the 60-vote hurdle, in part, because Republicans oppose the offset, which they argue would hurt small-businesses owners, who will need to hire more workers to reduce the unemployment rate and who often report business income and losses on their personal tax returns.
“Everybody in this body knows that the American people want us to do something about the jobs crisis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday night. “What Republicans have been saying is that raising taxes on business owners isn’t the way to do it.”
A Senate GOP leadership aide also noted that Republicans are skeptical that additional spending will help the economy.
“Two years after spending tens of billions of dollars on shovel-ready projects in his first stimulus bill, President Obama famously admitted that those projects weren’t as shovel-ready as he thought they were. It would be the height of irresponsibility at a time of trillion-dollar deficits to make the same mistake twice,” the aide said.