Senate nears vote to defeat Obama's jobs bill

By Ben Feller

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 11 2011 3:12 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Despite President Barack Obama's exhortations, the Senate prepared to swiftly kill his jobs package Tuesday and the White House and congressional leaders were already moving on to other ways to cut the nation's painfully high unemployment without raising taxes.

Obama's $447 billion jobs bill didn't figure to get a single GOP vote, even after his weeks-long campaign-style effort to drum up support for a measure he said would reduce the jobless rate from its current 9.1 percent.

Anticipating defeat, Obama promised to try again in smaller bites. "If they don't pass the whole package we're going to break it up into constituent parts" and try to push them through separately, Obama told members of his jobs council.

Still he pressed hard for Senate passage of the entire bill.

"Any senator who votes no should have to look you in the eye and tell you what exactly they're opposed to," Obama said to a union audience in Pittsburgh. Looking ahead to next year's elections, he said, "I think they'll have a hard time explaining why they voted no on this bill — other than the fact that I proposed it."

In fact, Democratic defections appeared to threaten that the measure would fail to win a simple majority, much less the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republicans filibuster. Even some who were to vote to break the filibuster, including Jim Webb, D-Va., and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who aligns with Democrats, said they oppose the underlying measure.

Obama's plan would combine Social Security payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses and other tax relief totaling about $270 billion with $175 billion in new spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure, as well as unemployment assistance and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

Obama says that the plan — more than half the size of his 2009 economic stimulus measure — would be an insurance policy against a double-dip recession and that continued economic intervention is essential given slower-than-hoped job growth.

"This is gut check time," Obama said. "Right now, our economy needs a jolt. Right now. And today, the Senate of the United States has a chance to do something, right now, by voting for the American Jobs Act."

Unlike the 2009 legislation, the current plan would be paid for with a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million that would raise about $450 billion over the coming decade.

"Democrats' sole proposal is to keep doing what hasn't worked — along with a massive tax hike that we know won't create jobs," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday, saying there are 1.5 million fewer jobs than when Obama's 2009 economic package became law. "Why on earth would you support an approach that we already know won't work?" McConnell said.

Democratic support isn't unanimous either. Moderates including Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both up for re-election next year in states where Obama figures to lose, may abandon Obama on this issue.

The White House and Democratic leaders say the great majority of Democrats will vote for the plan, however. Support among Democrats has been shored up by replacing Obama's tax increases — particularly a proposal to limit the value of itemized deductions for families making more than $250,000 — with the surcharge on millionaires.

That millionaires proposal would hit about 392,000 households, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank. In 2013, the first year the tax would take effect, those wealthy households would see their taxes increase by an average of $110,500, according to the analysis.

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