Monday, February 22, 2010

well, isn't this a surprise!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A modest job-creation bill advanced in the Senate on Monday as the chamber's newest Republican bucked his party and sided with Democrats on a $15 billion package of tax cuts and highway spending.

Republican Scott Brown joined four other Republicans, 55 Democrats and two independents to overcome a procedural hurdle that sets up a final vote later this week.

Brown was widely hailed as a conservative hero after his surprise victory in Massachusetts last month gave Republicans enough seats to block most Democratic legislation.

His election prompted President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats to call for increased bipartisanship, and an earlier version of the bill was written with Republican input.

But key Republicans withdrew their support after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scaled it back and its prospects for passage were uncertain.

Obama called the vote an "important step forward" and vowed to work with both major parties to pass legislation.

"The American people want to see Washington put aside partisan differences and make progress on jobs," he said.

Brown said the bill was not perfect but would help put people back to work.

"I hope my vote today is a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington," he said in a statement.

The bill includes a tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed workers, subsidies for state and local construction bonds and money to shore up a highway-construction fund.


The bill also includes a crackdown on offshore tax shelters. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would lead to $8.7 billion in savings over the coming decade, but that does not take into account the money that would be used for highway construction.

It would create or save 1.3 million jobs, largely through highway construction and other transportation projects, according to Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin.

Obama and his fellow Democrats say their top priority this year is to bring down the nation's 9.7 percent unemployment rate before the November congressional elections.

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