Reid Courting GOP Votes for Jobs Bill

Posted February 16, 2010 at 8:13pm

Facing growing GOP hostility over his handling of a $15 billion jobs bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has begun reaching out to Republicans to try to secure the bipartisan support he needs to pass the bill.

Reid is “reaching out to Republicans in hopes that they won’t vote against a bill they support just to play partisan politics,” Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau said Tuesday, adding that thus far, “no one has told Sen. Reid they are against provisions in the bill.”

Mollineau and other Democrats noted that most of the provisions in Reid’s proposal have previously enjoyed broad support. Even parts that have drawn Republican ire — such as a one-year extension of the highway trust fund — have still enjoyed strong bipartisan backing in the Senate.

But Republicans contend that growing opposition in their ranks to the jobs bill has less to do with the legislation itself and more to do with Reid’s handling of the issue.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced this weekend that he would vote against a motion to take up the bill after Reid decided last week to torpedo a broader, bipartisan bill by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in favor of a targeted measure.

“Democrats have a fundamental decision to make — do they want to work with Republicans or not. Leader Reid’s surprising decision to abandon a bipartisan job creation bill is an ominous sign and contradicts the President’s call for both parties to come together. This is not how you legislate in the United States Senate and demonstrates a tremendous arrogance of power,” Hatch said.

Hatch also warned that Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) win in last month’s special election should send a message about the public appetite for partisanship.

“Since the Massachusetts election, I doubt there are 60 senators in the United States Senate who will blatantly ignore the American people’s persistent call for bipartisanship and vote for cloture. The majority leadership still has time to prove they are serious, reverse course and work with us to deliver a bipartisan jobs bill all Americans can be proud of,” Hatch said.

Although Hatch is the only Republican yet to publicly come out against Reid’s bill — and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will likely wait until next week to decide a formal Conference position — GOP discontent is growing.

One Senate Republican aide said Reid’s decision to bar amendments to his bill would likely unite the minority against the measure. “It’s kind of like chickens voting with Colonel Sanders on his menu choices,” the aide said. “You walk down that road and pretty soon you are reduced to being treated like the House Minority.”

Democratic aides, however, rejected GOP criticism of Reid’s handling of the bill. While many Republicans had expressed support for the Baucus-Grassley bill, McConnell and other leaders had refused to agree to limit the number of amendments to it, Democratic aides said.

Mollineau and other Democrats signaled that should Republicans seek to block the measure over procedure, Reid and others charge them with mounting partisan blockade of job-creating legislation.

“Senate Republicans say they care all about creating jobs, but they [seem to] care more about partisan politics,” Mollineau said.