While President Obama works to raise pressure on Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs plan piece-by-piece with a road trip through North Carolina and Virginia, Senate Democrats are working an inside game, trying to echo the message inside the Capitol.
Senators joined with the heads of the American Federation of Teachers and the National School Boards Association Tuesday morning to push for the passage of a piece of the plan that would provide $35 billion in aid to states and local governments to pay the salaries of teachers, fire fighters and police officers.
Senate Democrats have proposed paying for the aid with a 0.5 percent tax on those making more than a million a year
“The choice is very stark for colleagues across the aisle,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Do you want to protect teachers and firefighters or do you want to protect those making over a million dollars a year from paying a small amount more in taxes.”
Aides say a vote on the state aid bill could come as soon as Friday.
Democrats, who hold 53 seats in the chamber, don’t have the votes to overcome the 60 vote hurdle necessary for most Senate action and pass the bill. The Senate blocked the full package last week, as two Democrats joined all of the chambers’ Republicans in voting to kill the plan.
A vote on the state aid piece of the jobs plan has not been scheduled. Senate Maj. Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he would like to hold one “as soon as possible” but would prefer to first conclude consideration of an appropriations bill now on the Senate floor.
But the rhetoric from Senate Democrats is designed to match that of the president’s bus tour, a deliberate effort to paint Republicans as the obstacle to job creation legislative efforts.
Republicans have eagerly greeted the campaign-year messaging, convinced the public will instead conclude Obama’s latest jobs bill represents a redux of the 2009 stimulus measure that they think voters have concluded was a failure.
“We’ve been mired in a jobs crisis for three years now, and all Democrats ever want to do is throw more taxpayer money at it,” said Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Senate floor Tuesday. “It never works the way they claim it will. And yet they want to keep doing it with other people’s money.
After the inevitable failure of the state aid bill--which the White House says would save the jobs of 400,000 teachers and first responders--Obama will ask the Senate to take up other parts of the $447 billion plan, including new spending for school and road construction, extension of unemployment benefits for the unemployed and extension of the payroll tax holiday for workers.
Recent polls suggest the elements of the plan are widely popular and Democrats believe highlighting Republican opposition to them will aide Obama’s reelection effort next year.
But for the famously sluggish Senate, the repeated symbolic votes could have a practical impact, serving to bog down the chamber down for weeks and interrupting work on other lesser measures.