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Senate Defeats Obama's Jobs Bill

Senate Defeats Obama's Jobs Bill

By Alexis Simendinger - October 12, 2011


Since Sept. 8, President Obama has been demanding that Congress vote on his American Jobs Act. On Tuesday evening, the Senate handed him an embarrassing procedural defeat, but also handed him a potent political weapon.

Congress, with some Democratic help, may have rebuked the president, but Obama has made it clear that he's campaigning against a "do-nothing" legislative branch while unemployment remains stuck at 9.1 percent. Each end of Pennsylvania Avenue played to type, and the debate headed back to the drawing board.

Not only did Senate Democrats bypass the president’s measure to take up their own version of jobs legislation, but two Democrats broke ranks and stood with Republicans to prevent the bill from moving ahead.

The Senate fell far short of the 60 votes necessary to take up the legislation under the procedural step called cloture. Fifty Democrats voted for cloture, and 49 senators, including Democrats Jon Tester of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Harry Reid of Nevada, voted no. (For procedural reasons, Reid switched his yes to a no; doing so will more easily allow the majority leader to bring the bill up for another vote.) Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, was absent for medical reasons.

Conservatives emphasized that the jobs measure would have attracted more opposition among Democratic senators if they had been voting on the bill itself -- because of objections to various provisions.

Republicans held firm in opposing the Democrats’ measure, which calls for higher taxes on millionaires to cover the costs of $447 billion in stimulus, primarily through spending on infrastructure and payroll tax holidays for employees and employers.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky promised with a sly smile from the floor that Republicans will “continue to look for opportunities to give the president the vote he asked for.”

With solid Republican opposition arrayed in the House against the president’s jobs bill, the White House was left looking for Plan B. One option the president and his aides have said they favor would break the bill into individual provisions that might attract bipartisan support.

As the Senate prepared to vote, Obama was in Orlando, Fla., traveling between two fundraising events. The White House, with advance choreography, organized the president’s motorcade to stop at a downtown Irish bar so Obama could meet briefly with unemployed construction workers for a photo opportunity pegged to jobs. Campaign manager Jim Messina waited outside next to the motorcade.

Hoisting a pint of Guinness, the president raised his beer in a salute, clinking glasses with the men. “To more jobs,” he said.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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