Obama jobs proposal stumbles on Senate hurdle

By Olivier Knox and Stephen Collinson, AFP

WASHINGTON–U.S. President Barack Obama’s jobs plan slid to defeat Tuesday against Senate Republican opposition, but he vowed to fight on amid grim new warnings partisan warfare could spark a new recession. Two of Obama’s own Democrats, who face tough re-election fights in 2012 elections, joined Republicans to vote against the US$447 billion bill, which fell far short of the 60-vote supermajority needed to advance in the chamber. Now, Obama, who has spent weeks demanding the plan, a bid to cut 9.1 percent unemployment and ignite growth, be passed in full, faces the prospect of ripping it up and advancing individual provisions bit-by-bit. “Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight,” Obama said, vowing to pile on pressure in votes aimed at forcing Republicans to be seen opposing help for the middle class and blocking tax hikes on the richest Americans. “With so many Americans out of work and so many families struggling, we can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Ultimately, the American people won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” said the increasingly embattled president. Obama, campaigning in swing-state Florida, earlier struck a populist pose as the vote went ahead, sipping a pint of Guinness with construction workers he said would profit from infrastructure projects in the bill.

“You guys are what this country’s all about,” Obama said. Though the bill in its entirety is effectively dead, Democratic leaders fought to ensure it garnered a 50-49 margin, so Obama could at least argue that a majority of the 100-seat chamber wanted to keep it alive. Some Democrats had said however that had the vote been on final passage of the mix of tax cuts and infrastructure spending they would have voted no — sparking jubilation among Republicans who oppose the bill. In a procedural maneuver that would permit him to bring up the bill again at any time, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid joined the two Democratic lawmakers who cast votes with Republicans. Given staunch opposition from Republicans determined to deny Obama a second term next year, it was never likely the entire package would emerge in one piece from a congressional showdown. Instead, the stage is set for a new round of grandstanding and political brinkmanship, unlikely to improve the disconsolate public’s contempt for Washington, but which holds heavy implications for Obama’s reelection bid. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was asked in an interview with Bloomberg Television whether Republicans were raising the risk of another recession by standing in the way of the bill, replied: “Absolutely.” “If Congress does not act, it will be because Republicans decided they did not want to do anything to help the economy,” he said. “Growth will be weaker … people will be out of work. Senior White House officials said they would work with Democrats in Congress to schedule votes on parts of the bill, including an extension of payroll tax cuts and financing to keep public employees like teachers in work.