Senate passes jobs bill, 70-28

The Senate voted 70-28 on Wednesday morning to pass a $15 billion jobs package, giving Senate Democrats their first legislative victory of the year.

Thirteen Republicans joined 55 Democrats and two independents to vote for the bill. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was the only Democrat to vote against it.

Final passage of the bill was made possible by the support of Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) and four other Republicans who voted Monday to cut off a GOP filibuster.

Democratic leaders must now negotiate the differences between the Senate bill and a much larger House jobs bill, which costs $154 billion.

“We need to do more and we understand that,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. “The road to recovery is a very long one. Today’s progress is a small step forward but an important step forward.”

The bill included four components: a $13 billion tax credit for employers who hire new workers; greater flexibility of businesses to write off capital expenditures; $2 billion in Build America Bonds to lower municipal borrowing costs; and a $20 billion transfer in highway funding, which did not require a spending offset and counts toward the overall cost of the legislation.

Reid said that he would soon move a travel and tourism promotion bill that would be particularly helpful to tourism-dependent Nevada.

Reid said the travel and tourism bill would create 40,000 new jobs in the service sector and 240,000 other jobs. Republicans blocked the legislation last year.

Reid said he would also advance a Federal Aviation Administration bill that would create “thousands” of jobs.

The jobs bill did not include an extension of expiring unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance subsidies. A Democratic aide said that leaders plan to pass a short-term extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA but Reid said Wednesday his plan is to eventually pass a year-long extension.

Reid said he planned Senate votes on the travel and tourism bill, the FAA reauthorization, a package of short-term extension of expiring tax credits, increased federal Medicaid assistance to states and a small-business assistance bill.

“We have a small-business jobs package we’re working on,” said Reid. “It’s going to be a very robust package.”

Reid said the Senate Banking, Finance and Small Business committees are working on the small-business legislation.