President Barack Obama and his allies in the Senate promise to press ahead with separate votes on pieces of his failed $447 billion jobs measure despite unanimous opposition from Republicans. But there also are signs of slippage among Democrats and some suggestion that the strategy isn’t working with voters.
Future votes on individual pieces of the measure aren’t likely to fare better than a pared-back jobs measure designed to boost hiring of teachers and first responders that Republicans and a handful of Democrats scuttled on Oct. 20.
Obama’s revised plan failed on a 50-50 test vote that fell well short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Three Democrats abandoned Obama on the vote, and two more who voted with the president said they couldn’t support the underlying Obama plan unless it’s changed.
The $35 billion measure combined $30 billion for state and local governments to hire teachers and other school workers with $5 billion to help pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters, and other first responders. The White House says the measure would “support” almost 400,000 education jobs for one year. Republicans call that a temporary “sugar high” for the economy and say it’s a taxpayer-funded bailout of state and local governments.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the vote showed “a callous disregard for our kids’ futures and the safety of our neighborhoods.” She noted that a CNN/Gallup poll found that 75 percent of Americans support the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.
Obama and his Democratic allies believed they’d found a winning issue in pressing popular ideas such as infrastructure spending and boosting hiring of police officers and firefighters. The sluggish economy and lower tax revenues have caused many teachers’ jobs to be cut over the past several years.
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“For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again,” Obama said in a statement after the vote. “Every American deserves an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what’s necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now.”
“We cannot afford to be bailing out local governments, and we can’t afford stimulus 2.0,” countered Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Democrats haven’t said which piece they’ll resurrect next as an individual bill, but there’s widespread support among party members for spending on highway and bridge projects, as well as for a poll-tested financing mechanism—a surcharge on income exceeding $1 million.