WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate has rejected further consideration of a bill Democrats say would have eliminated existing tax breaks for employers who ship their jobs overseas. While Republicans sought to squash it as political theater, Democrats admit quarreling over the "Bring Jobs Home Act" was openly influenced by the 2012 presidential campaign.
"It's fairly easy to see why Republicans are blocking our bill to stop outsourcing," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at a press conference before the vote. "They're obviously defending their presidential nominee, who of course made a fortune by shipping jobs overseas."
Reid was referring to Mitt Romney's past involvement with Bain Capital, the private investment firm Democrats say bought companies, laid off many of their American workers, and outsourced their jobs. Democrats have made Romney's history with Bain a central talking point on the trail.
Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., followed Reid, saying that today's vote was about turning the Republican position on outsourcing into "a matter of record."
"So the dance ends, the music ends and the votes are counted," he said. "And we can find out whether or not the Republican senators support the Bain Capital investment strategy of exporting jobs overseas."
Under existing law, employers may take tax deductions for the costs associated with moving jobs out of the country. The proposed legislation would have eliminated that, and used the resulting new revenue to fund a 20 percent tax credit for the costs companies run up "insourcing" labor back into the U.S.
The bill failed by a 56-42. A count of 60 was required to end discussion and move to a final vote.
To further push the issue, Democrats held a conference call with employees from Sensata Technologies, an electronics hardware manufacturer that plans to close its Freeport, Ill., plant at the end of the year and move those operations to China. Democrats say 150 people will be laid off in the process. Sensata, formerly known as the Sensors and Controls division of Texas Instruments, was spun off to Bain in 2006 for a reported $3 billion.
The call was held after the vote.
"There is no reason in the world this would not have passed except for so many of the Republican senators have other interests," said Tom Gaulrupp, a 33-year veteran of the company.
Gaulrupp says there was never a year the company did not draw a profit. Another employee, Lin Feller, was more frank:
"They do not care about us. The average guy on the street, they just do not care about us."
On the House floor this morning the ranking Republican member of the Senate finance committee called the bill "a joke," suggesting President Obama's campaign staff were its true authors.
"It's devoid of serious content because it is of political rather than economic priorities," Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said.
Speaking on the House floor, Hatch said it was "misleading" for Democrats to say there is a tax break for outsourcing. Holding up a large book, Hatch said the Democrats were trying to invent controversy.
"I'll keep this book of tax codes at my desk here. If someone wants to show me the tax code that allows deductions for shipping jobs overseas. I'd like to see it. But it's not in here."
Congressional analysts at the Joint Committee on Taxation say $14 million could be raised next year from removing outsourcing credits, compared to a cost of $21 million for bringing those jobs back. Hatch points out the relatively low sum has already been passed in Obama campaign ads on the issue.
Three Republicans voted in favor of the bill: Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Scott Brown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.