WASHINGTON -- A day after failing to advance one part of President Barack Obama's jobs plan in the Senate, Democrats moved on to another Friday, announcing a $60 billion measure to ramp up transportation and infrastructure spending.
The bill would devote $50 billion to improving highways, bridges, rail and air travel, with another $10 billion for an infrastructure bank that would be used for things like water and sewage systems. It would be paid for with a 0.7 percent surcharge on earnings above $1 million.
The rollout came just a day after all Senate Republicans and a few Democrats blocked another measure that would have provided $35 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers and firefighters on the job. Republicans opposed the 0.5 percent surcharge on earnings over $1 million in that bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not offer any assurance that Republicans would be more likely to get on board for this part of the president's jobs plan, but he argued that Americans already favor the idea and so should Republicans.
"I hope they'll change their mind," Reid said in a call with reporters. "The Republicans in the Senate are the only group of people in America who feel this way."
The bill would provide about $27 billion for roads and bridges, $9 billion for mass transit systems, $5 billion for projects chosen under a competitive grant program, $4 billion for high-speed rail, $2 billion for airports and $1 billion for an improved air traffic control system.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood insisted that such spending works, saying that the last round of stimulus spending on transportation created 65,000 jobs at 15,000 projects.
"We proved that we can put people to work," LaHood said.
Senate Republicans responded through their campaign organization before the bill was even announced, arguing that if such spending worked, the last round should have already fixed the employment and infrastructure problems the country faces.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results, yet that's exactly what Senate Democrats are proposing today," said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, taking aim specifically at Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
"When taxpayers hear Senator Klobuchar and her fellow liberal Democrats call for even more bloated government stimulus spending, it serves as yet another reminder of their broken promises and failed economic policies," Walsh said. "Instead of helping America's small businesses create jobs, Senate Democrats remain focused on higher taxes, reckless spending and bigger government."
Reid said that polls show Americans, including Republican voters, support such projects and that the GOP ignores this at its peril. "They better get in tune with their constituents, and we're going to keep moving forward on this," he vowed.
The majority leader blamed Republican opposition on their loyalty to influential anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and the no-new-taxes pledge he's pushed them to sign.
"The Senate GOP has had a love affair for many years now with Grover Norquist," Reid said. "They will not touch anything dealing with revenue -- nothing -- even though they are not in touch with reality or their own constituents."
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