Senate to block competing infrastructure plans

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 1:56 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks in front of the Key Bridge, which spans Arlington, Va. and Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, urging Congress to pass the infrastructure piece of the American Jobs Act.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's campaign-style drive for another batch of economic stimulus spending is facing defeat yet again at the hands of Republicans in the Senate.

This time it's Obama's $60 billion plan for infrastructure jobs that is expected to fall victim to a GOP filibuster Thursday. In votes last month, Republicans blocked Obama's entire $447 billion jobs package and a subsequent attempt to pass a $35 billion piece of it aimed at preventing layoffs of teachers and firefighters.

In turn, the president's Democratic allies are likely to block a competing GOP plan that would extend existing highway and transit spending programs, accompanied by a $40 billion cut in unspent funding for other domestic programs.

Despite repeated losses, Democrats seem to think they've found a winning issue in pressing popular ideas from Obama's poll-tested jobs package. Republicans say the president is more interested in picking political fights with them than seeking compromise, but they also are sensitive to criticism that they're blocking jobs legislation.

Obama made the case for the infrastructure measure Wednesday, standing at a Potomac River bridge, in a speech aimed at pressuring Republicans to back him.

"Members of Congress who do, who vote no, are going to have to explain why to their constituencies," Obama said. "The American people are with me with this. And it's time for folks running around spending all their time talking about what's wrong with America to spend some time rolling up their sleeves to help us make it right."

He also tried to shame the Republican-controlled House by accusing its leaders of wasting time during a jobs crisis with debates over commemorative baseball coins and reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the country's motto. The House has refused to consider Obama's jobs bill.

"That's not putting people back to work," Obama said. "I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work. There's work to be done. There are workers ready to do it. The American people are behind this."

But Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose Obama because his legislation is financed by a tax surcharge on income exceeding $1 million.

The legislation would provide an immediate $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. It also would establish a $10 billion bank to leverage private and public capital for longer-term infrastructure projects.

The measure would be financed by a 0.7 percent surcharge on income over $1 million.

After Obama's full $447 billion jobs bill was filibustered to death last month, the White House immediately announced it would seek votes on component pieces. That's a way to exert political pressure on Republicans sensitive about their own jobs agenda, which so far has centered on relaxing regulations. Those moves are proving equally futile.

Obama last week uncorked a "We Can't Wait" initiative that relies on executive authority rather than legislation from a bitterly divided Congress to help homeowners refinance "underwater" homes and give borrowers relief from their student loans.

Meanwhile, House GOP leaders are casting blame on the Senate for failing to act on 16 "forgotten" jobs bills, including a measure to repeal a law requiring federal, state and many local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors until their taxes are paid.

On Thursday, the House is poised to approve bipartisan legislation to remove a Securities and Exchange Commission ban that prevents small, privately held companies from using advertisements to solicit investors. The SEC ban, says bill sponsor Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., unfairly limits the ability of small companies to raise capital.

"While the president is out doing campaign events all over the country, what he could do is to actually come to Washington and be focused on trying to help pass bills that would create a better environment for job creation and help put the American people back to work," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS