The Senate shot down another piece of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill Thursday, as a stalemated Congress goes through the motions of attempting legislation to spur economic growth largely as a mechanism to allow each party to blame the other for the failure to act.
The chamber failed to advance a measure to spend $50 billion on highway, rail, transit and airport improvements and another $10 billion as seed money for an infrastructure bank designed to spark private investment in construction. The vote was 51 to 49 in favor, but the measure needed 60 votes to proceed to a full debate.
Explore recent votes from the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday sparred with Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about the jobs bill and one man declared he would "get the last word." (Nov. 3)
The failure came in advance of a jobs report due out Friday morning that will show the trajectory of the job market in the final quarter of the year. So far, there are signs that employers are shrugging off the ill effects of Europe’s troubles and volatile financial markets and are continuing to hire at a gradual pace. The September unemployment report relieved concerns about massive waves of layoffs, and last week the Commerce Department said the economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the summer months, its fastest clip in a year.
The Labor Department also reported Thursday that the number of people filing new claims for unemployment insurance benefits fell last week to 397,000, from a revised 406,000 the previous week. That was the lowest level in five weeks. Also Thursday, a survey from the Institute for Supply Management on activity at the nation’s service businesses was little changed, at 52.9 in October compared with 53 in September. Numbers above 50 indicate expansion.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, all 47 Senate Republicans joined Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) in opposing the Obama infrastructure measure, which would have been funded with a 0.7 percent surtax on those making more than a million dollars a year.
“It makes no sense when you consider that this bill was made up of the same kinds of common-sense proposals that many of these Senators have fought for in the past. It was fully paid for,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
Democrats have been trying to move Obama’s American Jobs Act forward plank by plank, without much success, since the Senate blocked the package in its entirety last month.
The Senate had already blocked another element of the plan that would have provided $35 billion in aid to states to hire teachers and first responders. Democrats have indicated they will ask the Senate to vote on other pieces of the plan, including extending a payroll tax holiday for workers and benefits for the unemployed, and offering new tax incentives to businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.
Also Thursday, Democrats joined to block a separate Republican proposal to extend the government’s highway spending authority for the next two years and roll back some environmental regulations. A procedural motion to advance the measure was rejected 53 to 47. The current highway spending authority will lapse in February.