New Obama jobs bill: Do too many Democrats view it as 'bailout lite'?
The White House is pushing a new $35 billion jobs bill to stave off layoffs for teachers, firefighters, and police. But moderate Democrats are balking at parts of the plan.
Firefighters, in town to lobby for a $35 billion jobs bill, so jammed a cavernous Senate hearing room that many had to be asked to leave – for exceeding the fire code.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“This is an emergency,” Vice President Joe Biden told cheering public-service workers at the rally, citing at least 300,000 teachers, 10,000 law enforcement officers, and 7,000 firefighters laid off in the past 18 months.
“The police chief of Camden [N.J.] has lost half of his force, and crime has gone through the roof,” he added. “It’s not really the fault of the mayor or the governor. They don’t have the money because of this God-awful mess we got put into.”
With more layoffs for public-service workers pending across the nation, the stakes are high for the bill, but so are the hurdles in the US Senate.
The bill is a smaller version of the $447 billion jobs bill promoted by President Obama but rejected by the Senate Oct. 12. It would provide federal money to help protect public-sector jobs.
But Republicans say the new bill is "bailout lite," paid for by raising taxes – a 0.5 percent tax on incomes over $1 million. That's a nonstarter for most Republicans.
And moderate Democrats, too, are wary of the bill. Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska says he won’t back a bill that raises taxes for new spending – even for first responders. “As soon as you start talking about revenues, people stop talking about spending cuts,” he says.
Senator Nelson, up for reelection in 2012, says what he hears most from Nebraskans are concern about federal deficits. “People back home are talking to him about how to bring down the deficit, and this won’t do that,” says spokesman Jake Thompson.
“Jon supports full, responsible funding for this nation’s teachers, firefighters, and first responders,” said spokeswoman Andrea Helling in a statement. “But he’s concerned that this specific proposal doesn’t have the sideboards needed to ensure the money actually goes to them.”
Under the bill, funds to the states are likely to be distributed on the basis of competitive grants – a move seen as putting rural states at a disadvantage. “He’s also concerned that rural states like Montana would have to compete on an uneven playing field for this funding,” Ms. Helling added.