Senate Democrats Pick First Piece of Jobs Bill to Be Voted On

Senate Democrats today announced the first piece of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill that they will take up, a $35 billion aid package to help state and local governments provide funding for teachers, police officers and firefighters that they say would create or save about 400,000 jobs.

About $30 billion of it would be invested to help avoid teacher layoffs and hire more teachers in schools.

“Nearly 300,000 teacher jobs, I repeat, are at risk and so is the quality of our education system,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced on the Senate floor this afternoon. “Unless school districts get a helping hand, many more will be forced to make more difficult choices, between laying off educators, going without school books, paper and other supplies. Democrats will pursue the president’s plan to keep teachers and support staff where they belong, in the classroom.”

The rest of the money — $5 billion — would be invested to retain police, firefighters and first responders. “Our communities cannot afford to lose the men and women who keep us safe and secure, and our nation cannot afford to lose the competitive edge the world-class education system gives us in a constantly changing world,” Reid said.

The measure would be paid for by a proposed 0.5 percent tax on millionaires, Reid said.

He indicated that the next piece taken up on the jobs bill would also be paid for by the millionaire’s surtax.

Reid will introduce the bill up on the floor today and will decide in the next day or two when the voting on this part will happen. Republicans, and even some Democrats, likely will be opposed to the measure because it calls for spending, which Republicans have consistently been against during this jobs debate. They are also opposed to the tax on millionaires.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., indicated today he is not in support of taking up this first piece of the jobs bill, saying that Democrats should focus on  proposals for “spurring private sector jobs creation that both parties could support.”

“It is disappointing that Senate Democrats are still focused on the same temporary stimulus spending that’s failed to solve our jobs crisis instead of bipartisan legislation that would lead to private-sector job growth,” McConnell said today in a paper statement, “ Democrats have a choice: they can try to divide the country along partisan fault lines for the sake of an election that is still 13 months away, or they can work with us on passing bipartisan legislation – such as tax reform, domestic energy production, regulatory reform — that gets at the root of the jobs crisis now.”

Reid says he will take up one piece of the jobs bill per week so this is just the first piece of many to be considered.