Senate blocks new Obama jobs bill

For the second time in two weeks, Senate Republicans voted in unison to block “jobs” legislation, which the Obama administration and Senate Democratic leaders have made central to their agenda.

The majority of Democrats then blocked a second "jobs" measure offered by Republicans.

The first measure, a piece of President Obama’s larger jobs package, failed in a 50-50 vote after two Democrats and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) joined Senate Republicans in voting against moving to the measure. 

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Democrats Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) also sided with Republicans. 

Nelson and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) were the two Democrats to vote against the president's full "jobs" package last week. Tester voted yes on Thursday's measure.

Lieberman (Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, cited concerns about the legislation’s cost effectiveness in voting against the measure.

As with last week’s vote, Democrats failed to woo a single Republican vote. The staunchly unified GOP opposition calls into question whether the Democratic strategy has been able to exert the intended pressure on centrist Republicans.

"For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again," Obama said in a statement released after the vote. "That’s unacceptable."

Vice President Joe Biden visited Capitol Hill Wednesday to hold a rally with Senate Democrats blasting Republicans for protecting millionaires at the expense of the working class.

Republicans accuse Senate Democratic leaders of playing politics by bringing to the floor a bill that raised taxes instead of working in good faith to pass bipartisan legislation.

The $35 billion Democratic measure was designed to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters in cash-strapped states. Most of the funding, $30 billion, would have gone to saving teaching jobs, with the rest of the money directed to first-responders.

The most controversial element of the bill was a plan to pay for it by raising taxes on income over $1 million by 0.5 percent. Republicans argued that it would put more pressure on small businesses that are already having difficulty maintaining cash flow because of the tight credit market.

Republicans said the latest Democratic jobs measure is a replay of the $787 billion stimulus Congress passed at the beginning of 2009, which they argue had little impact.

“This is a proposal to raise taxes on 300,000 business owners in order to send money down to states so they don’t have to lay off state employees,” McConnell said at a press conference Thursday.

“We earlier had an experience with this in the first stimulus, which was borrowing money that would have to be paid back by future generations, in order to send [funds] down to states to help them with their financial problems so they wouldn’t have to lay off state employees,” McConnell said.

"Every Senate Republican voted to block a bill that would help middle class families and keep hundreds of thousands of firefighters on the job, police officers on the streets, and teachers in the classroom when our kids need them most," Obama countered in his statement.

Senate Democrats say they will bring additional pieces of the president’s jobs bill to the floor. One measure will likely include infrastructure spending; another would extend the payroll tax holiday and extend it to employers; a third would extend unemployment insurance.

Democrats expect to propose the same pay-for — raising taxes on income over $1 million — for each.

The Senate also voted on and narrowly rejected, 57-43, a Republican alternative that would have eliminated the 3-percent withholding tax on federal contracts.

Republicans offered the bill, another piece of Obama’s jobs package, to show they are willing to find common ground on some parts of the president’s agenda.

Ten Democrats defected to vote with the Republicans to bring the bill just three votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed.

The ten Democrats voting with Republicans were: Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.).

Under current law, government contractors must pay up front 3-percent of federal contracts as a down payment on future taxes. Republicans planned to offset its cost by rescinding un-obligated balances at federal agencies, a pay-for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) once proposed to offset the repeal of a controversial reporting requirement of the 2010 healthcare reform law.

A Senate Democratic aide said Stabenow offered the offset before congressional leaders reached a deal setting spending levels for 2012.

The aide said it would go against the deal Congress struck earlier this year to raise the debt limit.

This story was updated at 11:00 p.m.