President Obama is now 0-for-3 in his push to stimulate jobs after Republicans led a filibuster Thursday of his latest proposal to boost infrastructure spending.
The loss follows defeats last month for Mr. Obama’s full $447 billion jobs plan, and a separate slice of that plan that would have funded salaries for state and local teachers and emergency workers, all paid for by tax increases on Americans with annual incomes of $1 million or more.
Thursday’s bill, which would have directed tens of billions toward infrastructure over the next decade, got 51 votes - one more than the two earlier plans, but still nine shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
“Democrats are more interested in building a campaign message than in rebuilding roads and bridges,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said ahead of the afternoon vote.
As a revenue bill that started in the Senate, the Democrats’ legislation was unconstitutional on its face - but they are seeking to make Republicans have to take tough votes on raising taxes on the wealthy and using the money to fund jobs, both of which have widespread support among voters.
“The American people deserve to know why their Republican representatives in Washington refuse to put some of the workers hit hardest by the economic downturn back on the job rebuilding America,” Mr. Obama said in a statement released while he is on the French Riviera meeting with world leaders.
Republicans offered a counterproposal that would have extended existing highway funding for two years, which the GOP said would give states and the construction industry some certainty about which projects they could go ahead with.
But Democrats said that bill cut too many corners, and they blocked it on a 53-47 vote.
All sides do seem to agree that the federal government should fund infrastructure, but they differ on how to pay for it.
House Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters that House Republicans will offer a plan to expand U.S. energy production and use the revenue from that to pay for more infrastructure.
Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said his plan was “not some short-term gimmicky thing” - presumably a reference to the president’s plan - but rather a way to promote jobs over the long-term in both energy and construction.
Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill to repeal a 3 percent withholding requirement on all payments to government contractors [-] something businesses say would be a huge burden if it took effect as scheduled in 2013. Senate Republicans have pushed that bill to the Senate floor, and late Thursday Democrats scheduled a vote for next week.
All 47 Republicans in the chamber voted against the Democrats’ bill, as did Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent who caucuses with Democrats and who said raising taxes only to turn around and spend the money immediately will hurt the efforts of lawmakers looking to reduce long-term debt.
“Unless we can put our economy on sound financial footing by reigning in our debt, all additional stimulus efforts will be for naught,” Mr. Lieberman said.
The Democrats’ bill, though, still did slightly better than the GOP’s own proposal, which could muster only 47 votes: 46 Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, who voted for both the Democrats’ and Republicans’ plans. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, voted along with Democrats in opposition.
Even as the two chambers seem to have reached a stalemate on jobs legislation, they are making some progress on the 2012 spending bills, which are already a month overdue.
On Thursday, the House voted to establish a conference committee to work out differences with a Senate bill covering a half-dozen major federal departments. It will be the first major conference committee to meet in this Congress.