Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday said he will offer a bill that provides $35 billion for states and local jurisdictions agencies to rehire teachers, firefighters, and police officers.
The announcement comes as President Obama touts the measure in appearances in North Carolina and Virginia.
“We’re going to break it up into bite-sized pieces so [opponents] can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation,” Obama said on Monday in Asheville, N.C.
The legislation is the first piece taken from the president’s American Jobs Act, which Republicans and two Democrats filibustered in the Senate last week. Reid said he hopes to bring up one provision from the bill each week. He said he has the next four lined up, but neither he nor Democratic aides would elaborate ahead of a Democratic Caucus meeting set for Tuesday.
Last month, Senate Democrats were unhappy with what they considered the White House's communications failure regarding promotion of Obama's package. Reid's announcement today, coming so soon after Obama's speech, indicates closer coordination as Democrats try to portray Republicans as obstructionist to even "commonsense" measures.
If Senate Democrats are able to move any of the components of the jobs package, they face long odds in the GOP-controlled House.
Senate Republicans quickly noted that Congress passed similar aid measures in 2009 – as part of the stimulus bill – and in 2010, and called them ineffective.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., circulated a news release under the subject heading: “So the Last Two Didn’t Work?"
Democrats cited statements last year by vulnerable GOP Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine in support of the 2010 aid bill.
Reid said he will not offer the jobs measure as an amendment to an appropriations bill that will occupy the Senate for most of this week, but he argued that “there is no reason” the chamber could not take up the $35 billion bill before Friday. Reid also threatened to keep the Senate in session next week, when it is scheduled to be in recess, “to make sure we get a vote on this jobs bill.”
Each piece of Obama’s bill would be funded by a small increase in income tax on people who earn more than $1 million a year, Reid said.