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Senate Blocks Two Partisan Jobs Bills

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a Democratic bill to provide $60 billion for transportation infrastructure funding was designed to give jobs back to construction workers.

Updated: 4:03 p.m.

Dueling infrastructure jobs bills tanked on the Senate floor today, with both Republicans and Democrats failing to get filibuster-proof majorities for their respective proposals.

In key procedural votes, Democrats fell nine votes short of moving their bill forward, while Republicans fell 13 votes short. Both bills needed to secure 60 votes to avoid a filibuster.

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) were the only two members of the Democratic caucus to vote against the party’s proposal. On the GOP proposal, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the only Democrat to support it, but Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe voted with all other Democrats against her party.

The Democratic plan, which is essentially the second element of President Barack Obama’s proposed jobs package, would provide $60 billion for transportation infrastructure funding and would be paid for with a 0.7 percent tax on millionaires — an offset Republicans have repeatedly refused to support.

The bill contains $27 billion for highways, $9 billion for mass transit, $2 billion for airports and $10 billion for innovative financing initiatives. The measure 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 fund under the current patchwork of federal programs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the measure is designed to put construction workers back on the job. They have been hit hard by the recession and suffer from an unemployment rate of 13.3 percent, more than 4 points higher than the 9.1 percent national unemployment rate.

“The legislation we will deal with this afternoon deals with putting people back to work, hundreds of thousands of construction workers,” Reid said on the floor.

Republicans opposed the legislation because of the offset. They also question the success of the 2009 stimulus package, which included funds for transportation infrastructure among other things. GOP Members also believe that similar policies, such as the Democrats’ jobs proposals, will waste resources rather than help the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), citing the Congressional Budget Office, said that the Democrats’ bill, which is projected to only spend about $4.5 billion next year, would not do much to create jobs in the short term.

“According to the CBO, less than one tenth of the funds in the Democrat proposal will be spent next year,” McConnell said. “And roughly 40 percent won’t be spent until after 2015. This hardly matches the president’s calls for doing something ‘right away.’”

McConnell also said the offset would “pay for this temporary spending bill with a permanent tax hike on job creators.

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