Senate Votes To Keep Jobs Bill From Being Debated

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The jobs plan President Obama introduced in a special joint session of Congress last month has been killed in a procedural vote in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid could not find the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the $447 billion bill. Democrats are now considering smaller pieces of the package that might get greater support.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning.

President Obama's jobs bill got its first big test in the Senate and, as was widely predicted, failed. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, could not meet the 60-vote threshold required to begin debate on the bill. Even some Democrats voted no. NPR's Tamara Keith reports on what happened and what's next.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well before the test vote started, the result was a foregone conclusion. Democrats would need Republican support to begin debate. There was no way they were going to get it. And everyone knew it. The vote instead gave both sides another chance to accuse each other of doing horrible things for the sake of politics. Here's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Democrats have designed this bill to fail. They've designed their own bill to fail in the hopes that anyone who votes against it will look bad for opposing a bill they mistakenly refer to as a jobs bill.

KEITH: Senate Democrats did change how the jobs spending would be funded. They swapped out the president's proposed tax increase on families earning more than $250,000 a year in favor of a surtax on income over a million dollars. That move made it much easier for Democrats to accuse Republicans of favoring millionaires and billionaires over unemployed Americans. Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor that the bill contains plenty of ideas Republicans have supported in the past.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Republicans oppose those ideas now I guess because they've a proven track record of creating jobs, all of these programs. But I guess Republicans think if the economy improves it might help President Obama. So they root for the economy to fail and oppose every effort to improve it.

KEITH: Reid later switched his vote to no, for procedural reasons. Two other Democrats voted along with Republicans from the start. Leaders kept the vote open well into the night so a Democratic senator who had been out of town could add one last yes vote. It was purely symbolic.

That extra vote showed a majority of senators supported moving forward on the bill, but it wasn't even close to the 60-vote threshold. This confirms what many have been saying ever since the president proposed his jobs bill last month. In its current form, it doesn't have a shot. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wants to start working on parts of the bill with bipartisan support.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: Hopefully this says this is the end of the political games. And hopefully it will also mean that the White House and the president will stop, you know, going out there demanding an all-or-nothing approach, pass my bill or else.

KEITH: Cantor's list of possible areas for agreement includes incentives for hiring veterans, reworking the unemployment insurance system, and passing free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Those trade bills will come up in the House later today.

In a statement, President Obama said he plans to work with Senate Democrats going forward to, quote, make sure that the individual proposals in this jobs bill get a vote as soon as possible.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.

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