In a 50-50 vote Thursday night, the Senate blocked a $35 billion provision in President Obama’s jobs bill that would enable states and localities to save or create jobs for teachers and first responders. The president spent part of this week on a bus tour urging Congress to consider portions of the bill individually in the hope that it would be passed piece by piece. It was the first attempt by the Senate to move pieces of the American Jobs Act that was blocked last week.
"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 after the vote. "That's unacceptable. We must do what's right for the country and pass the common-sense proposals in the American Jobs Act."
But Republicans weren’t the only ones to reject the measure, which would have been paid for with a 0.5 percent tax increase on incomes above $1 million. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, voted against it in Thursday’s vote.
According to the White House, the measure would have “supported” close to 400,000 jobs for teachers and other school workers. Republicans have decried it and other components in the American Jobs Act as a second stimulus package. In expressing their opposition Thursday, some said that the bill was a taxpayer-funded bailout for state and local governments with no guarantee that the $35 billion for education jobs and $5 billion for police officers, firefighters and other first responders would actually be used for those purposes.
"Those Americans deserve an explanation as to why they don't deserve those jobs," Obama said. "And every American deserves an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what's necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now."
An AP-GfK poll taken Oct. 13-17 found that 62 percent of respondents favor the surcharge on incomes above $1 million to pay for jobs initiatives, while 26 percent opposed the idea.
Vice President Joe Biden angered Republicans on Wednesday when he said that the country would see an increase in crime if the measure was not passed.
"In many cities the result has been, and it's not unique, murder rates are up. Robberies are up. Rapes are up," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) accused the vice president of using “fear tactics on the American people” and said that his comment “shows a desperation of the vice president and the president because they realize that their policies have failed the American people.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday stood by Biden’s remarks, telling reporters, "I think it would be hard to find anyone who doesn't agree with the simple equation that fewer police officers on the street has a direct effect on the crime rate."
(Photo: Adam Hunger / Reuters)