Senate Democrats held a big rally on Capitol Hill today in support of the first piece of the American Jobs Act, the state fiscal aid bill to support teachers and public safety workers. Vice President Biden joined them for the rally. It had a campaign feel to it.
Biden urged Senate Republicans to “think hard” about their opposition to a $35 billion package that would allow states and local governments to avoid lay offs for teachers and first responders.
Biden said the funds would help prevent up to 400,000 layoffs among teachers and first responders across the nation.
He added that the package would be funded by a 0.5% surtax on household income above $1 million. This is a scaled-back version of the 5.6% surtax that Democrats proposed earlier to pay for Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan that was rejected last week.
“These guys won’t even allow us to debate it,” Biden said, referring to the Senate GOP vote to block formal debate on Obama’s jobs bill.
Harry Reid plans to schedule a vote on the bill this week, as soon as the Senate wraps up a package of appropriations bills. The idea is to couple a cloture motion to end debate on the appropriations with a cloture motion to start debate on the state fiscal aid bill. If Republicans decide to block appropriations after legislating on it for a week, just to avoid the jobs bill, Reid will have to wait another 30 hours for a separate cloture motion to proceed on the jobs bill to ripen. Which means you wouldn’t see a vote until next week.
But to be clear, this vote will not pass. In fact, it might not get a majority. Jon Tester and Ben Nelson, who voted against opening debate on the full American Jobs Act, may not support this smaller, $35 billion legislation either. And they’re not alone.
Several moderate Democrats and Republicans appear to be struggling to overcome “stimulus fatigue” setting in among voters back home and are withholding support for now — meaning the latest proposal is at risk of winning even less backing than the president’s signature economic bill, which fell nine votes shy of breaking a GOP-led filibuster last week.
“At some point — and my opinion is now — we’ve got to stop spending money we don’t have,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats. He told POLITICO he probably would vote to block the latest proposal from even moving forward for debate.
In fact, Lieberman made that official today, saying that “Spending on new programs will add to the amount of money the Special Cmte. on debt cuts has to find.” Keep in mind that this is not true. The bill itself is paid for with that small surtax on millionaires. But I suppose any excuse to do nothing will do.
This is why there’s a large movement out there protesting the capture of government by corporate interests. They see a political class unable to move forward – even with paid-for legislation – to put Americans back to work. There’s a depression in the public sector happening right now, with 500,000 job losses in under three years. This bill would simply arrest the cyclical budgeting in the states and help them get through the downturn. It has a high bang for the buck, doesn’t need environmental reviews or contracting bids, and it’s paid for in the least intrusive – and most popular – way possible, with a micro-tax on people who won’t even know the money’s gone, spread over many years to ensure a stimulus immediately.
But this modest measure is too heavy a lift for Washington, mostly Republicans but as you can see also a few Democrats, who are completely out of touch with everyday concerns in America.