Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Senate rejects Obama jobs bill

SKEWED PRIORITIES:Lawmakers voted down the bill hoping to damage the president, and Timothy Geithner said that Republicans did not want to help the economy

AFP, Washington

In a blow to US President Barack Obama, the US Senate on Tuesday effectively killed a jobs bill at the heart of his efforts to turn the sour economy around in the run up to next year’s November elections.

Lawmakers voted 50-49 to advance the US$447 billion plan, falling short of the 60 senators needed to do so, in the face of fierce opposition from Republicans eager to deny the president a second term.

“Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight,” Obama said in a statement released before the vote was over, but after its outcome was unmistakable, vowing to move his plan piecemeal “as soon as possible.”

And he vowed to pile political pressure on Republicans in a series of votes aimed at forcing them to oppose funds aimed at helping middle-class families and block tax hikes on the very richest Americans to pay for the plan.

“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,” the embattled president said.

The bare majority vote inflated Senate support for the measure, as some Democrats who backed ending debate on the legislation had said they would oppose its final passage — a point that led Republicans to crow that a bipartisan majority was rejecting the bill.

Two Democrats broke ranks to oppose the blueprint, while one Republican did not vote. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted against the measure in a parliamentary maneuver that allows him to bring up the measure again at any time.

Obama has spent weeks demanding Congress pass a full version of a bill designed to boost growth, cut the unemployment rate of 9.1 percent and shield the fragile US recovery from the threat of European debt contagion.

Given staunch Republican opposition, it was never likely the entire package would emerge in one piece from a congressional showdown.

Instead, the stage was 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 re-election bid.

In an unusually partisan attack on Republicans, US -Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner warned that they risked helping to tip the country into recession by rejecting the White House’s approach.

Asked during an interview with Bloomberg Television whether Republicans were raising the risk of another recession by standing in the way of the bill, Geithner responded: “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.

If the bill is not passed, he added, “we will put off the important challenges. That is not something we should do.”

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