President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill failed in a crucial vote in the Senate on Tuesday night despite weeks of his begging lawmakers to “pass this bill now.”
The procedural vote required 60 yeas to pass but failed mostly along party lines, with two Democrats, Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jon Tester of Montana, siding with Republicans 50 to 49.
In one final delay, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) went so far as to allow the vote to go on for more than two hours to allow Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D.-N.H.) enough time to fly back to Washington from an awards ceremony she was attending in Boston to vote for the plan.
And although Senators Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.), Jim Webb (D.-Va.) and Joe Manchin (D.-W.Va.) sided with Obama in Tuesday night’s cloture vote to cut off the filibuster, all stated they would not vote in favor of final passage for Obama’s bill in the future.
“Out of respect for the principles of free and open debate, I will be voting to proceed to debate on the American Jobs Act,” Webb said. “However, I cannot support final passage of the bill in its current form.”
Republicans labeled Obama’s bill a permanent tax hike for a temporary spending bill, while Democrats have delayed voting on the measure for weeks knowing that they didn’t have enough support to pass it and that it would embarrass the White House.
“This is not about a victory for President Obama, it is about a victory for unemployed people across the country,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) said during a floor speech prior to the vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) called the package another failed stimulus bill, and said defeating it “is the only way we can get Democrats in Washington to finally abandon this failed approach to job creation.”
That stimulus bill cost taxpayers $825 billion, and yet three years later, there are 1.5 million fewer jobs, McConnell said. “That’s the clearest proof it was a monstrous failure.”
“By proposing a second stimulus, Democrats are showing the American people that they have no new ideas for dealing with our jobs crisis,” McConnell said. “Today’s vote is conclusive proof that Democrats’ sole proposal is to keep doing what hasn’t worked—along with a massive tax hike that we know won’t create jobs.”
Obama tried to rally support for his bill just hours before the vote, telling a crowd of union supporters in Pittsburgh that “our economy needs a jolt.”
“The Senate of the United States has a chance to do something, right now, by voting for the American Jobs Act,” Obama said. “This is gut-check time,” Obama said.
In an e-mail to supporters before the vote began, the Obama campaign accused Republicans of voting down his plan for political purposes, and urged them to call Congress and voice their support.
“Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory,” the e-mail said. “There’s still time for principled Republican senators to declare their independence from this kamikaze political strategy.”
Obama originally proposed paying for his program through a combination of tax increases on families making more than $250,000 and eliminating so-called “loopholes” for the rich. Democrats reworked the plan to levy a 5.6% surtax on those earning more than $1 million.
Still, Reid was not hopeful he could convince his entire caucus to hold the party line.
“To get all my senators to agree that I can take a break to go to the bathroom—I can’t quite get that,” Reid said last week.
Some 100 protesters from antiwar groups and an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street brigade tried to disrupt work in one of the congressional office buildings as a show of support for the Obama administration.
A half-dozen activists were arrested by Capitol Hill Police for unlawful conduct, and others were escorted out of the Hart Senate Office Building after shrieking and shouting slogans in the building’s cavernous atrium, and attempting to unfurl banners from a balcony calling for an end to war, and “People for the People.”