Republican senators on Thursday blocked a $60 billion infrastructure bill part of President Barack Obama's jobs package as expected.
Every GOP senator and a few Democrats voted to maintain a filibuster, 51-49 -- far from the 60 needed to bring the legislation to a vote. Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Lieberman, an independent member of the caucus, voted with Republicans.
The infrastructure portion of Obama's jobs plan met the same fate as the bill to provide $35 billion for states and localities to hire teachers, police officers and firefighters. In a 50-50 vote, the Republican caucus and two Democrats killed the legislation.
Obama on Wednesday urged Congress to pass the infrastructure bill, called Rebuild America Jobs Act, which he said would put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work on road rail and airport projects.
The White House had also released a report that highlighted the economic benefits of these projects.
The Rebuild America Jobs Act would provide $50 billion for projects and another $10 billion for an infrastructure bank to finance federal loans and loan guarantees to transportation, water and energy projects. A 0.7 percent tax surcharge on gross income above $1 million would be implemented to pay for the new funding.
Though the bill failed, Republicans also saw their piece of infrastructure-related legislation go down 47-53. The GOP bill would have extended highway funding for an extra two years.
Reid, McConnell Spar, Yet Again
Before the vote, the two Senate leaders sparred over their competing infrastructure bills.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada opened Thursday's session criticizing Republicans for holding up the legislation.
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 percent tax surcharge on income over $1 million, Reid said, would affect two-tenths of a percent of tax payers.
The top one 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.
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.