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Senate Republicans block another piece of Obama's jobs plan

They stay united in rejecting a $60-billion roads measure, even though some worry about their image on a key issue for voters.

November 04, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
  • House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) proposes to expand energy production and use the proceeds for infrastructure needs. Senate Republicans blocked a $60-billion highway bill that was part of President Obama's jobs package.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) proposes to expand energy production… (Jim Lo Scalzo, European…)

Reporting from Washington — Republicans maintained their unified front against President Obama's jobs package, blocking $60 billion in funding for roads and other infrastructure projects despite indications they are sensitive about losing ground on a top issue for voters.

The GOP has shown great discipline as it fights the president's $447-billion jobs plan, even as polls show Americans largely support its various elements.

Senate Democrats thought that by peeling off such provisions — the highway measure was among the most popular — they could put pressure on Republicans to cross party lines. But Thursday's outcome was no different from past results.

"Washington has become so dysfunctional," said Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.), who co-sponsored the bill but also supported a GOP alternative that died along party lines.

The 51-49 vote in the Senate, as two Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition, comes as Republicans and Democrats are vying for the public's approval on the jobs front.

After a year that has largely been consumed by bruising budget battles, Republicans understand that with the nation's high unemployment rate, they cannot simply oppose the president and must highlight their alternative approach.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rolled out a new GOP jobs initiative Thursday as a Quinnipiac poll showed Democrats have an edge over Republicans in Congress for the first time heading into the 2012 election. Though previous polls revealed essentially equal approval ratings for both parties, the Quinnipiac poll showed Democrats with an 8-percentage-point advantage.

Boehner proposes expanding domestic energy production, including oil drilling, and putting the proceeds toward highway infrastructure needs.

"This represents a better way," Boehner told reporters.

Until now, the GOP has largely relied on bills that would undo federal regulations and lower taxes to spur economic growth and create jobs.

It is also an attempt to find common ground with Obama, who has indicated some support for increased domestic energy production.

The House has found bipartisan success in carving out small slices of Obama's jobs package, including votes this week on several bills that would make it easier for businesses to access capital.

But Boehner's proposal to swap revenue from energy production for highway projects is likely to run into opposition from environmental-minded Democrats.

The jockeying on jobs measures is occurring against the backdrop of the deficit debate that has largely defined this Congress.

The congressional "super committee" on deficit reduction is struggling to meet its Thanksgiving deadline to recommend a proposal to trim $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

Democrats want to tuck provisions from the jobs bill into the super committee's budget package. But Republicans are resisting new taxes to bring down deficits, as many lawmakers are reluctant to break anti-tax pledges. Democrats are willing to cut Medicare and other entitlements, but only if the GOP gives on taxes.

"There's room for revenues," Boehner told reporters Thursday.

But as super committee members huddled privately Thursday and Republicans met for a second day with Boehner, the committee appears to have deadlocked.

"Democrats have put skin in the game," said a Democratic aide familiar with the talks, "and if Republicans are interested in a bipartisan deal, it's now up to them to do the same."

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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