After halting President Obama's entire $447 billion jobs-stimulus bill last week, the Senate blocked a $35 billion slice of the package in a late-night filibuster vote Thursday that highlighted the lingering questions among both parties over the White House's plans.
The 50-50 vote fell 10 short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill, and saw two Democrats and one independent join with all 47 Republicans in sustaining a bipartisan filibuster.
"Four out of every five Americans who would pay higher taxes are small business owners. That doesn't sound like a jobs bill to me," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.
Minutes later the Senate also blocked Republicans' counter-proposal, which would have repealed a requirement that would have withheld 3 percent of payments from all government contractors beginning in 2013 — something all sides say is burdensome, but which they can't agree on how to pay for.
The bill came much closer to seeing action, falling just three votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. Ten Democrats joined with all Republicans in the chamber to try to advance the bill.
President Obama earlier in the evening had threatened to veto the Republicans' bill, decrying the $30 billion in discretionary spending cuts he would be forced to make to fund the $11 billion bill.
"Cutting already-tight discretionary program levels even further, as this bill would do, would be a serious mistake," the White House said in a statement of policy. "The bill's unspecified rescission of $30 billion in appropriated funds would cause serious disruption in a range of services supported by the federal government."
Mr. Obama's broad $447 billion bill to pay for infrastructure spending, expand last year's payroll tax cut and transfer federal money to states to fund public teachers and first responders failed in a Senate filibuster last week after lawmakers balked at the surtax Democrats used to pay for it.
Democratic leaders and Mr. Obama had vowed to try to carve the bill up piece-by-piece and send them through Congress to force lawmakers to weigh individual elements such as teacher funding against increases taxes on the wealthy.
But Thursday's vote showed there is no more appetite for the bill in pieces than there was for it in its entirety.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who crafted Democrats' strategy, lost three members of his caucus on the teachers bill. Afterwards, though, he focused on the GOP, which voted unanimously against his plan.
"Unfortunately, protecting millionaires and defeating President Obama are more important to my Republican colleagues than creating jobs and getting our economy back on track," he said. "Democrats agree with the overwhelming majority of Americans that teachers and first responder jobs are worth defending, while lower taxes for millionaires and billionaires are not."
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