Jobs Bill: Senate Leaders Spar Over Competing Infrastructure Plans

 @DanRivoli on November 03 2011 2:57 PM
U.S. Infrastructure
U.S. Senate leaders sparred over competing infrastructure bills. Pictured: Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. REUTERS

U.S. Senate leaders Thursday sparred over competing infrastructure bills before voting on a piece of President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs package that is certain to fail.

The first vote slated for Thursday afternoon is the Rebuild America Jobs Act, which is a part of Obama's jobs plan that Senate Democrats have broken into chunks. Republicans have so far voted en masse to uphold filibusters on Obama's entire American Jobs Act and on a piece that would provide funding for teacher and first responder hiring.

If the Democrats' infrastructure bill fails to attract 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, as expected, the Senate will vote on the Republicans' infrastructure bill, which also needs 60 votes to proceed.

Reid Criticizes Republicans

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., opened Thursday's session criticizing Republicans for holding up Obama's jobs bill, which is paid for by a 0.7 percentage point tax surcharge on gross income above $1 million.

The bill would provide $50 billion for infrastructure projects and another $10 billion for an infrastructure bank to finance federal loans and loan guarantees to transportation, water and energy projects.

It's unbelievable that Republicans have lined up in the past, and we heard they're going to do the same thing today, in unanimous opposition to this common sense plan supported by people all over America, Reid said.

Reid also continued his effort to tie Republican opposition against the jobs bill to an anti-tax pledge from tax activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. Nearly all Congressional Republicans and even a handful of Democrats have signed the pledge.

The 0.7 percentage point tax surcharge on income over $1 million, Reid said, would affect two-tenths of a percent of tax payers.

The top 1 percent of these people in America make as much as the other 99 percent put together, Reid said, taking a cue from the Occupy Wall Street protests that have sprung up around the country.

McConnell Criticizes Obama

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however, criticized Obama's plan as ineffectual and touted his caucus' plan as a better alternative to kick start infrastructure projects.

The Republicans' bill would extend a current highway funding bill for two years, giving states and contractors the certainty they need to start new infrastructure projects and to create jobs.

Under the Republican plan, states would have the authority to spend federal funding and also blocks new regulation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on cement producers and boilers. The legislation is paid for with funds Congress already appropriated, but has yet to spend.

McConnell also slammed Obama's infrastructure plan because less than a tenth of the $50 billion slated for infrastructure funding -- $4.3 billion -- will be spent in 2012.

This hardly matches the president's call for doing something quote, 'right away,' McConnell said, adding that Democrats want to pay for a temporary spending bill with a permanent tax hike on job creators.

The truth is, McConnell said, the Democrats are more interested in building a campaign message than in rebuilding roads and bridges.

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