US Senate defeats Obama’s jobs bill

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate defeated  President Barack Obama’s job-creation package yesterday in a  sign that Washington is likely too paralyzed to take major  steps to spur hiring before the 2012 elections.

The $447 billion package of tax cuts and new spending  failed by a vote of 50 to 48, short of the 60 votes it needed  to advance in the 100-member Senate. Voting was expected to  continue for several hours but would not affect the outcome.

Obama, campaigning in Florida, said the vote was not the  end of the fight for the measure. In a statement after the  vote, Obama accused Republicans of obstruction and said he  would work with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make sure  that individual proposals in the bill would get a vote as soon  as possible.

“Ultimately, the American people won’t take ‘no’ for an  answer. It’s time for Congress to meet their responsibility,  put their party politics aside and take action on jobs right  now.”

Obama had barnstormed around the country to pressure his  Republican opponents to back his top legislative priority, but  he did not pick up a single Republican vote in the  Democratic-controlled Senate.

Two Democrats, facing re-election in conservative states,  also voted against the measure. Obama said earlier yesterday he would try to pass  components of the bill individually.

Though Obama’s top legislative priority is now dead in  Congress, it is certain to have a long afterlife on the  campaign trail.

Obama’s 2012 re-election chances depend on his ability to  spur the sluggish economic recovery and revive the nearly  stagnant job market.

The U.S. unemployment rate has been above 9 percent since  May and almost 45 percent of the 14 million jobless Americans  have been out of work for six months or more.

Even Wall Street is feeling the pinch, with a report from  the New York State Comptroller showing that banker bonuses are  likely to drop for the second year in a row.

Among the elements of the bill which might be salvaged are  a payroll tax cut which Obama wants to extend to avoid imposing  an effective tax increase at a time when wages have not been  rising much. Obama’s bill would also extend unemployment  benefits for the long-term unemployed, another area that could  yield bipartisan support.

Other elements, such as increased highway spending and aid  for cash-strapped states, aren’t likely to pick up Republican  support.

 POLITICAL FOOTBALL  

Democrats say that Republicans are more interested in defeating Obama than helping the country recover from the  deepest recession since the 1930s.

“Republicans think if the economy improves it might help  President Obama.

So they root for the economy to fail, and  oppose every effort to improve it,” Senate Democratic Leader  Harry Reid said before the vote.

Republicans, who have lined up behind a job-creation agenda  centered around relaxing business regulations, say Obama’s jobs  bill is essentially a warmed-over version of his 2009  stimulus.

That effort helped to ease the impact of the worst  recession since the 1930s, but Republicans point out that it  did not keep unemployment below 8 percent as the White House  had promised.

“Everyone who votes for this second stimulus will have to  answer a simple but important question: why on Earth would you  support an approach that we already know won’t work?” said  Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Obama’s so-called Jobs Council, under the chairmanship of  GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt, earlier delivered a  report in which they proposed steps to foster U.S. innovation  and make the country more attractive to foreign investment.

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