5 Republicans Help Senate Jobs Bill Over Hurdle
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Now, a vote in the Senate last night did not break down entirely on partisan lines. Five Republicans in the Senate sided with nearly all of the Democrats to vote for a job's creation bill. One of those who broke ranks with the Republican Party was the man who last month ended the Democrat's 60 vote majority - Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown. Here's NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA: The job's bill Republicans were trying to hold up is modest by congressional standards. Its $15 billion price tag is only about one-tenth what a separate jobs bill cost that the House past late last year. But to hear California Democrat Barbara Boxer tell it before yesterday's vote, the fate of the nation was in the hands of a chamber whose majority party now has only 59 members, one short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster.
BARBARA BOXER: This vote will send a shiver through the spine of our entire business community and our working people if we don't get 60 votes today.
WELNA: Failing to get to 60 might have also sent a shiver through Senate Democrats. This was, after all, the very first filibuster they were trying to break on a bill since Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown became his party's 41st senator. As such, it was a crucial test of Majority Leader Harry Reid's skill at winning over at least a few Republicans. Reid told them they now share some of the responsibility for what happens in the Senate.
HARRY REID: If Republicans support this bill, as they have all the elements of it in the past, and they join us to pass it, we're going to do many more bills just like this to create jobs. However, if my friends on the other side of the aisle want to put bipartisanship ahead of people - people who are out of work, - they once again try to distract from the issue at hand, they only confirm their reputation ofas the party of no. They only confirm the American people's fears that Republicans refuse to do things to help them.
WELNA: Republicans had wanted a bigger jobs bill with more tax breaks. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was the only Republican to address the politically charged measure on the Senate floor. But rather than criticize it, he spoke of the deficit.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Americans are worried about the growing national debt. That's why Republicans hope to offer amendments to the jobs bill that we'll be voting on today that would lower it.
WELNA: For newly sworn in Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, it was his first chance to uphold the GOP filibuster on a piece of legislation. Instead, Brown voted to end the filibuster. He later told reporters he hoped his vote could be what he called a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington.
SCOTT BROWN: I felt it was appropriate. I guessLike I said that, it's not a perfect bill. I would have liked broader and deeper tax cuts, but I was comfortable with that first vote.
WELNA: Maine's Olympia Snowe was one of four other Republicans who also voted to end the filibuster. She said she welcomed Brown as one more Republican willing to consider legislation on its merits.
OLYMPIA SNOWE: Frankly, I think we're so -we've been so driven here between red and blue states rather than, you know, really focusing on what matters for America.
WELNA: Nebraska's Ben Nelson was the only Democrat who voted against ending the filibuster. That state's Republican Ssenator, Mike Johanns, voted likewise.
MIKE JOHANNS: I just don't see anything there that causes me to get excited about what Senator Reid is trying to accomplish here.
WELNA: Reid, for his part, exulted in the 62 to 30 outcome of the vote and the willingness of five Republicans to break with their party.
REID: It's really a new day, and I look forward to this work period being one where we can all go home and say, you know, ladies and gentlemen from Nevada, New Hampshire, and Illinois and New Jersey and New York and Arkansas, we're working together. We're really getting things done together. And that's what legislation should be about.
WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol.
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