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13 Republicans break rank as Senate passes $15 billion jobs bill

Breaking partisan stalemate, 13 Republicans joined Democrats Wednesday to approve a $15 billion jobs bill. Both sides see the cooperation as a template for progress on future legislation.

By Staff writer / February 24, 2010

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, after voting on the jobs bill.

Harry Hamburg/AP

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Washington

In what could be a political warming trend, 13 Republicans broke ranks to give Senate majority leader Harry Reid a rare bipartisan victory on a $15 billion jobs bill on Wednesday.

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Senators on both sides of the aisle hailed the 70-28 vote as a model for moving forward on some other stalled measures.

“Let this be the start of us coming together on issues where we can agree,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York.

The jobs bill includes a one-year holiday from the payroll tax for businesses that hire unemployed workers, an extension of the federal Highway Trust Fund, expense deductions for small businesses, and an extension of the two-year Build America bond program to fund state and local infrastructure projects – all elements with broad, bipartisan support.

But the price of consensus is breaking up big, comprehensive bills and negotiating bipartisan support on more modest packages, Republicans said.

In a shot at the White House in advance of Thursday’s healthcare summit, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky renewed calls for “step-by-step proposals that will actually get at the problem, which is cost,” instead of trying to move a broad, comprehensive bill.

“If ever there were a time for the administration to show it’s actually listening, it is now,” he added. "Reform is too important. We can’t let this opportunity pass.”

Centrist Democrats, too, said Wednesday’s vote sets a template for progress on other bills. “The obstruction of Republicans on everything means that we have to move forward with small, meaningful, measurable provisions that can be easily explained,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, after the vote.

For example, instead of a comprehensive healthcare bill, Democrats should explain to people the merits of a smaller bill that promotes preventive care, or insurance exchanges, or insurance reforms, Senator. McCaskill adds. “Then, either we smoke Republicans out on the merits or they will be forced to wear the mantle of obstructionism,” she adds.

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