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May 27, 2015

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Obama jobs bill stalls in the Senate

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

What no one expected to pass did not come to pass Tuesday night in the Senate, in the form of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill.

Republican senators, joined by two Democrats, successfully stopped Obama’s much-touted $447 billion jobs bill from advancing. That leaves Democratic leaders and the president with two choices: go back to the drawing board or hit the campaign trail to decry the blockage.

It’s likely that they’ll do both.

The jobs bill emerged in the last month as a critical cure-all for the Obama administration. Passage, supporters said, will stimulate job growth, especially in the construction industry.

Obama stressed that the country does not have time to wait for another election to get Americans back to work, a fact that also works in his favor, as if the unemployment rate shrinks in the next 13 months, his chances at reelection dramatically improve.

But that was background to the Senate floor Tuesday night, where the jobs bill came up for its first procedural vote.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid held the Senate vote open far past the usual 15 minutes to pull in as much of his caucus as possible -- New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen was extremely late. He lost two moderate Democrats early in the vote -- Jon Tester of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, both of whom face tough reelections this year.

Reid then switched his vote from “yes” to “no” to preserve his ability to call up the jobs bill for another try in the future (a quirk of Senate procedure when a filibuster-busting 60 votes are necessary to advance legislation).

The final vote was thus listed as 50 to 49.

“Democrats will continue to advance these job-creating policies, and Republicans will have to explain to the American people why they oppose common-sense, bipartisan solutions for putting Americans back to work,” Reid said in a statement after the effort failed.

But that likely means breaking up the bill into its component parts. And then the question is, which first?

In a conference call prior to the vote, Reid said he was excited about the provisions of the bill to rehabilitate schools — a program school officials say is a two-for-one economic punch.

“Not only would it provide us the ability to take care of schools in need, in dire condition...it would get parents back in the workforce and provide a more stable home life, so these students can continue to learn,” Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent of government relations for the Clark County School District, said on the same call.

Other provisions likely to be resurrected include the idea of an infrastructure bank to pay for road and bridge construction and an extended and augmented payroll tax holiday to encourage corporations to create more jobs in the U.S.

Republicans had been saying since the Obama announced his jobs plan that they’d rather pick bits and pieces of it that seemed worth addressing rather than swallow the whole thing.

“Democrats have designed their own bill to fail in the hopes that anyone who votes against it will look bad,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday afternoon. “This whole exercise is a charade.”

But if anyone is posturing, Democrats charge, it’s the Republicans for voting against provisions they have supported in the past. “Just because Obama wants them, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t vote for them,” Reid said.

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