At 6:34 p.m. on October 11, 2011, forty-six Republicans and three Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted to dump a recovery plan that would have:
1. reduced the taxes paid by owners of small businesses and middle-income families and;
2. levied about half a percentage point more tax on people who made more than $1 million a year, money to be spent on public sector jobs: putting teachers, police officers, firefighters, and construction workers back to work.
These nay-voting representatives shot down the idea of cutting nearly half a trillion dollars in payroll tax for business owners (i.e., job creators). The Democrats who voted NAY were Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted YAY. The Republican who chose not to cast a vote at all was Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. It was a 50/49 vote, nowhere near the two-thirds majority required for moving forward.
When the omnibus jobs act was rejected, the president broke it up into pieces. The first piece, S1723, proposed a .5 percent tax increase for people making a million dollars or more a year. This money would pay for the hiring of teachers, police officers, and firefighters. At 9:55 p.m. on October 20, 2011, down this idea went in a 50/50 vote. This time, Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Independent Joe Lieberman joined Ben Nelson to vote with the Republicans. Reid and Tester switched to YAY. A two-thirds majority was out of the question.
The next piece, S1769, proposed a .7 percent tax increase for those making a million dollars or more a year in order to pay for urgently needed work on our roads, bridges, school buildings, and other elements of our infrastructure (and the construction jobs required to get this work done). At 2:59 p.m. on November 3, 2011, this infrastructure bill was killed in a 51/49 vote, nowhere near a two-thirds majority needed to move it along. This time, the only Democrat to vote with the Republicans and Independent Joe Lieberman was Nebraska’s Ben Nelson.
Bearing these facts in mind, re-visit what the president said as he introduced the American Jobs Act to the American people on national TV, in prime time, in September 2011:
It’s not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that’s in this plan.
* * *
This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.
* * *
Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees -- if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut.
* * *
But what we can’t do -- what I will not do -- is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.
* * *
Ask yourselves -- where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?
That's what Obama said a year ago.
Now is the time to strip partisan pretense and face reality. The people who voted against the American Jobs Act in any and all of its forms are representing somebody, just not most of us.
The senators who voted against the jobs act remind me of the woman who told Solomon to chop in half the infant she claimed as her own when he proposed physically dividing the child between the two women claiming to be his mother. In this well-worn tale, the real mother begged Solomon to refrain from destroying the baby, even though that meant she would have to give him up.
When a rational, practical, bi-partisan plan is dashed, and the only constituency it asks anything extra from are the people who make a million dollars a year or more, who is having their way with our representatives? We must ask this question, because these are the people actually being represented by the lawmakers we elect.
Remember: Not everyone has been suffering these last four years. Missouri voters had better starting thinking about the real reasons why this is true. Who sails along perfectly fine, and with much to gain, when this country is chopped in two?
The full text of Obama’s jobs bill introduction is here:
The roll-call breakdown of the initial vote on the jobs act can be found here: