Senate rejects slimmed-down Obama jobs bill
WASHINGTON (AP) - Despite a campaign-style push this week by President Barack Obama, the Senate on Thursday scuttled pared-back jobs legislation aimed at helping state and local governments avoid layoffs of teachers and firefighters.
Obama's three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia - states crucial to his re-election race next year - didn't change any minds among Senate Republicans, who filibustered Obama's latest jobs measure to death just as they killed his broader $447 billion jobs plan last week.
The 50-50 vote came in relation to a motion to simply take up the bill. Some Democrats who voted with the president, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, however, said they couldn't support the underlying Obama plan unless it's changed.
Thursday's $35 billion measure combined $30 billion for state and local governments to hire teachers and other school workers with $5 billion to help pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters and other first responders. The White House says the measure would "support" almost 400,000 education jobs for one year. Republicans call that a temporary "sugar high" for the economy.
Despite the negative vote, Obama and his Democratic allies are acting like they've found a winning issue in repeatedly pressing popular ideas such as infrastructure spending and boosting hiring of police officers and firefighters. The sluggish economy and lower tax revenues have caused many teachers' jobs to be cut over the past several years.
"In the coming school year, many school districts will have to make another round of difficult decisions that will cost jobs and put the education of the nation's children at risk," a White House policy statement said.
After the failure of the jobs measure last week, Democrats vowed to try to resurrect it on a piece by piece basis, even though the strategy doesn't seem to have any better chance of success. But Democrats are trying to win a political advantage through repeated votes.
They're also pressing for passage of a poll-tested financing mechanism - a surcharge on income exceeding $1 million.
An AP-GfK poll taken Oct. 13-17 found 62 percent of respondents favoring the surcharge as a way to pay for jobs initiatives. Just 26 percent opposed the idea.
Republicans say the president is more interested in picking political fights with them than seeking compromise. Still, they don't seem to be afraid of a politically weakened Obama. Not a single Republican backed the president in last week's vote.