Republicans stop Senate Dems' attempt to move job bills

Senate Democrats tried late Wednesday afternoon to pass several bills designed to spur job creation but Republicans objected to what they called a political ploy.

But Republicans stuck to the pledge to halt any legislation that does not address the expiring tax rates or provide stop-gap government funding.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who will head the Senate Democrats’ messaging and communications efforts in 2012, spearheaded the Dems' effort.

Senate Democrats last month elected Schumer to head a new office in charge of coordinating policy and communications strategy. Wednesday’s floor debate was a preview of how he will handle that job.

“We have an economy that needs improvement and our colleagues have said they will not let anything happen, whether it be tax credits for employers who hire the unemployed … help for the energy industry, tax credits to help manufacturers hire people, unemployment insurance,” Schumer said.

Democrats attempted to move an extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits; legislation to encourage the construction of clean-energy homes; a bill providing federal incentives for investment in communities hit hard by the recession; and an extension of tax credits for employers that hire previously-unemployed workers.

Republican senators objected to each of the motions to approve by unanimous consent.

“Republicans have said that we believe the single most important step we can take to create jobs is keep the current tax rates, which will go up automatically Jan. 1,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)

“Secondly, we need to fund the government. Funding expires this Friday and after that we can move to whatever else the Democratic leader would like to bring up,” Alexander said. “We should fund the government, keep the tax rates where they are, freeze spending and go home.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier this week calling on the Senate to focus on extending current tax rates and funding the federal government into 2011.
All 42 members of the Senate Republican conference signed the letter pledging to block consideration of any bill that does not address those issues.

Schumer made a plea for an extension of the Hire Now tax credit that he co-sponsored earlier this year.

“It’s been regarded as a success,” Schumer said of the legislation that would provide tax relief to employers who hire workers who had not had a job for 60 days.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) objected to the request to extend the tax provision by unanimous consent.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) asked for consent to advance the other jobs legislation.

Several Republican senators blocked the motions.