Rebuffed twice in their attempts to push through President Obama’s jobs proposals, Senate Democrats are ready to try again.
The Senate will hold a vote the first week of November on the $60 billion infrastructure portion of Obama's Jobs Act, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Friday.
The bill contains $50 billion for direct spending on transportation projects and $10 billion in seed money to start a National Infrastructure Bank. The spending would be paid for by a 0.7 percent tax on annual income above $1 million.
Reid said he is including a millionaire surtax in the latest bill because it is popular with the public. He said the GOP is opposed to any new form of government revenue, no matter the specifics.
“The Senate GOP has for many years now had a love affair with Grover Norquist,” he said, referring to the Americans for Tax Reform president and keeper of an anti-tax pledge. “They will not touch anything to do with revenue, nothing. Even though they are not in touch with reality, or their own constituents, but they are in touch with Grover Norquist.”
Reid claimed polls show that 75 percent of the public supports raising taxes on millionaires to pay for key spending and that the teachers bill was supported by every American except the Senate GOP.
“The Republicans in the Senate are the only group of people in America who feel this way,” he said of opposition to the failed measure.
Support for the funding bill was not unanimous among Democrats, however. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) voted no, as did Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats.
Senate Republicans have urged Reid to abandon the Jobs Act and focus on areas of agreement with the GOP. The party is pushing a Jobs Through Growth Act that includes budget cuts, limitations on regulations and tax cuts.
One proposed tax change, the elimination of a 3 percent withholding tax on federal contractors, was blocked by Senate Democrats on Thursday. That provision was included in the Obama Jobs Act, but was paid for by tax increases — not by the spending cuts the GOP favors.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said by enacting the infrastructure bill, “we can hand a very nice Thanksgiving and Christmas present to the American people,” one that is the best way to put “friends and neighbors” back to work.
He said that $48 billion in transit stimulus money over the last two years created 65,000 jobs. He said the cost per job is $75,000
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told reporters the bill includes $2 billion for airport improvement, $1 billion for new air traffic control systems, $27 billion for roads, bridges and ports, $4 billion for railways, $9 billion for mass transit and $5 billion in discretionary TIGER grants provided to states.
Klobuchar noted that the National Infrastructure Bank has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. A bill creating the bank was co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and has support from both the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.