Reid’s Gamble Pays Off: Senate Approves Jobs Bill

Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:48am

Updated: 11:33 a.m.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly, 70-28, in favor of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) $15 billion job-creation bill on Wednesday, marking a major victory for Democrats and validating Reid’s decision to abandon a broader, bipartisan jobs package in favor of a targeted approach.

Thirteen Republicans joined 55 Democrats and two Independents in voting for the measure, which includes a one-year extension to the Highway Trust Fund, Build America Bonds provisions, tax breaks for new small-business hires and language on small-business tax breaks. Just one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), voted against.

Nelson said money from last year’s $787 billion stimulus bill should be tapped before Congress passes additional spending to boost the economy. He added that he wanted to see a focus on business and trade issues, but he noted such initiatives don’t fit within Reid’s jobs agenda.

“At some point, we’re going to have to talk about extenders,” he said. “But that’s pretty hard to do in a jobs bill.”

Asked if Reid should shift his focus, Nelson said “no.” “He’s getting enough votes to get things passed. Procedurally, he’s doing what he needs to do,” Nelson said.

Reid, who took a gamble in pushing the scaled-down jobs plan, hailed the result as bipartisan win. “I’m encouraged that we were able to pass this fully paid for, bipartisan bill that will provide an important boost to businesses in Nevada and all across the country and help them hire more workers. This bill has the potential to create and save over a million jobs. I appreciate the support of my Republican colleagues who joined us to support these job creating measures, but I’m disappointed that so many others decided to vote against this bipartisan bill,” Reid said.

“The American people benefit from seeing Washington work together to address our shared economic challenges. Today’s vote is an important step in our efforts to strengthen the economy this year, and we will work to pass additional important job creation measures as soon as possible,” he added.

The vote represents one of Reid’s biggest legislative victories this Congress.

Democrats have been on defense for months over their health care agenda and for failing to focus their attention on the economy. It’s a potential political boon for Reid personally as well: He is facing a tough re-election battle this fall and came under intense fire for deciding to push the $15 billion plan instead of an $85 billion measure negotiated by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Reid spiked that measure despite the fact it appeared to have bipartisan support and White House buy-in, opting to instead pursue a bill that — while its individual components enjoyed bipartisan support in the past — was much more closely in line with Democratic priorities.

Still, even with Wednesday’s victory, the ultimate fate of the bill remains unclear. The House has passed a much broader jobs bill last year, and many liberals in that chamber have criticized Reid’s piecemeal approach to job creation.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.