Washington: The bitterly divided US Senate late Thursday defeated a $35 billion item from President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, one aimed at helping states employ teachers, police, and emergency workers.
Lawmakers voted 50-50 to move forward with the legislation, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican blocking tactics, in another reminder of polarized Washington’s struggles to prod the sluggish US economy.
Republicans opposed the measure because it would have been paid for by a 0.5% tax hike on people who earn more than $1 million annually, a step they charged would stifle job-creating investments.
A file photo of US President Barack Obama (Bloomberg)
Obama called the Republicans’ opposition to the bill “unacceptable” and vowed to proceed with other pieces of the $447 billion package.
“Every Senate Republican voted to block a bill that would help middle class families and keep hundreds of thousands of firefighters on the job, police officers on the streets, and teachers in the classroom,” he said.
“Those Americans deserve an explanation as to why they don’t deserve those jobs -- and 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,” he said in a statement.
Democrats have vowed to force votes on components of Obama’s jobs plan after Republicans blocked the overall measure from advancing, citing opposition to his push to raise taxes on the very richest Americans.
Thursday’s procedural vote was largely a foregone conclusion, but both sides have been working to fire up supporters and win over voters deeply worried about the economy as the campaign to the November 2012 elections heats up.
The Senate also defeated a Republican-backed proposal to repeal a law under which government agencies withhold three percent of payments to contractors - an item also included in Obama’s overall jobs package.
Lawmakers voted to move forward with that bill by a 57-43 margin, again falling short of the 60 needed.
Democrats - including the president- say they back the intent of the legislation but oppose the Republican version because it would be paid for by some $30 billion in cuts to government spending.