WASHINGTON - Later today, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar will join Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood to unveil a new bill to fund transportation spending funded with a surtax on those earning more than $1 million, a key component of President Obama's jobs plan.
The move comes less than a day after another component of that plan, a measure to fund hundreds of thousands of police officers, firefighters and teachers, also funded by a millionaire tax, was blocked in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster.
After unveiling his plan last month to combat persistently high unemployment, Obama has campaigned constantly in favor of the bill in the face of stiff Republican resistance. The GOP-controlled House won't take up the measure and Republicans in the Senate also blocked a vote on the bill in its entirety. As a result, Democrats have now decided to split the bill into small pieces and attempt to pass it that way.
The Democrats' strategy also presents plentiful opportunities to try to show the GOP favors the interests of millionaires over urgent infrastructure, education and public safety spending. Republicans are calling the jobs measures another government stimulus program that won't fix the economy.
We'll have more details after the conference call with Reid, Klobuchar and LaHood.
It's a $60 billion bill with $50 billion going to road, rail, airport and other critical transportation projects around the country. Another $10 billion will be used to seed an infrastructure bank, a proposal that's been floating around Washington for awhile. You can read more about the bank here.
Klobuchar described the collapse of the I-35W bridge in 2007 as a wake-up call to the country about the state of its decaying infrastructure.
"We just can't afford to wait any longer whether we're talking about a construction worker looking for a job or a business looking to export to foreign markets, it's clear we need to rebuild our infrastructure," said Klobuchar.
She described infrastructure spending as an area where both parties have long cooperated on and lamented the resistance by Republicans to any proposals of fresh government spending.
"There's no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge or a Democratic water project or a Republican water project," said Klobuchar.
But while Klobuchar may have called for bipartisanship, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was eager to taunt Republicans for resisting any Democratic proposal funded by a tax increase.
"The Senate GOP has had a love affair for many years now with Grover Norquist," said Reid, referring to the anti-tax crusader who's the chief enforcer of the party's no new taxes pledge.
Reid has scheduled a vote on the bill the week of Oct. 31 after the Senate returns from a recess. The measure's prospects are likely dim in the Senate where 60 votes are required to break a filibuster and Democrats have 53 members in their caucus.
Republicans immediately jumped on the proposal.
"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, the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "So 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."