WASHINGTON — For the second time in 10 days, the Senate moved Thursday toward a showdown over Democratic efforts to take up a jobs bill championed by President Barack Obama.
This time, the bill has been narrowed to provide $35 billion to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters. To offset the cost, the bill would impose a surtax, to take effect in 2013, of 0.5 percent on income in excess of $1 million.
Democrats acknowledged that they were likely to fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. But they hoped to gain a political edge, by forcing Republicans to vote on this and other discrete parts of broader legislation proposed by Obama to create jobs and revive the economy.
Campaigning for his $447 billion jobs package this week in North Carolina and Virginia, Obama suggested that Republicans could not understand the whole thing all at once, so he said “we’re going to chop it up into some bite-sized pieces.”
The Senate last week blocked consideration of the larger bill, which included a 5.6 percent surtax on income over $1 million.
Republicans objected to the tax and said the bill would be no more successful than the economic stimulus law Obama signed in February 2009.
Both parties seized on the smaller bill to draw contrasts in advance of the 2012 elections.
Democrats said the bill would save or create jobs for nearly 400,000 teachers and force millionaires to make a small sacrifice for the benefit of the nation.
“The massive layoffs we have had in America today are rooted in the last administration,” said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, D-Nev. “It is very clear that private sector jobs have been doing fine. It is the public sector jobs where we have lost huge numbers.”
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, derided the Democrats’ proposal as “a government jobs bill.” He said it would “impose a permanent tax hike on about 300,000 U.S. business owners and then use the money to bail out cities and states that cannot pay their bills.”
McConnell said Democrats’ solicitude for government employees was misplaced. “It’s the private sector that’s been begging for mercy,” he said. “It’s the private sector that’s being crushed by regulators.”