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Senate enters total gridlock as Election 2010 nears

Democrats failed to move forward on a bill that would have ended a tax break critics say rewards companies who send jobs abroad. Legislation is going nowhere ahead of Election 2010.

By Staff writer / September 28, 2010

Senate majority leader Harry Reid has not been able to break Republican opposition to several pieces of legislation in the past two weeks, forcing him to put off key votes until after the Nov. 2 elections. Here, he gives a speech at the Air Force Energy Forum on Aug. 25 in Las Vegas.

Julie Jacobson/AP/file

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Washington

The Senate continued a pattern of symbolic votes and gridlock today, as Republicans voted unanimously to support a tax break critics say encourages the outsourcing of US jobs.

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Four Democrats and one Independent joined 40 Republicans in voting down a move forward on the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act, which fell seven votes short of the 60 needed to begin debate on the bill.

The measure, which would have ended a tax break for some businesses with overseas income, failed 53 to 45, with Sens. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska, Jon Tester (D) of Montana, Mark Warner (D) of Virginia, and Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut voting with Republicans.

[Editor's Note: The original version misstated that Sen. Jim Webb (D) of Virginia voted with Republicans. Senator Warner did.]

Solid GOP opposition has stymied Senate Democrats in their bid to move significant legislation before midterm elections, prompting rumors that Democrats will move forward the final day of the session from next Friday to as early as this Wednesday.

Frustration or desperation?

Democrats voiced their frustration.

“We are trying to shut the drain in circumstances where our tax code rewards those who now leave our country and move their jobs overseas,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) of North Dakota, a lead sponsor of the bill. “If we cannot do that now, then, in my judgment, we can perhaps never do good public policy that lifts this country’s economy, stands up for American businesses and American workers."

Republicans called the bill a desperate measure that would itself discourage hiring Americans at home.

“Raising taxes on companies’ overseas profits will just incentivize them to move their domestic facilities to another country. That’s not the prescription that will cure our ailing economy,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah during today’s floor debate.

Last week, Republicans blocked the defense authorization bill, which typically gets bipartisan support, partly because it included a measure to open a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid also announced last week that he will not take up a bill to extend some of the Bush-era tax cuts until after the Nov. 2 elections.

Big to-do (later) list

To date, Congress has passed none of the must-pass spending bills for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. But the Senate voted 84 to 14 on a bill that would allow for the continuing funding of the government until Congress returns for an expected lame-duck session in November.

“What I hear when I go home is that people want us to try to work together,” says Sen. Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas. “People are sick of everything being a party-line vote, but partisanship seems to ratchet up every Congress. It’s a breakdown of the discipline and respect we ought to have for each other.”

Only 13 percent of the Americans think that Congress is doing a good or excellent job, compared with 80 percent who give Congress a rating of fair or poor, according to the Pew Research Center/National Journal poll, released on Monday.

But public approval for individual representatives runs higher. When asked to rank their own member of Congress, 28 percent of respondents gave a positive rating versus 56 percent who ranked their representative fair or poor.

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