Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed back Wednesday against his Republican colleagues over their opposition to a bill which would put 400,000 teachers, police and firefighters back to work across the country.
The plan to put teachers and first responders back on the job was part of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which GOP senators effectively killed last week in a procedural maneuver. Obama, however, declared he would not give up and vowed to try to move individual components of the jobs bill.
Senate Democrats now have started with the provision to provide federal funds to help states and local governments pay for teachers and other workers, calling it the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.
In floor speech, Reid voiced his frustration that Republicans also object to this narrower legislation.
“Democrats’ number one priority is to create jobs. So to us, putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work teaching children, patrolling our streets and fighting fires constitutes a success,” says Reid (D-Nev.). “But Republicans’ number one priority is to defeat President Obama, and their strategy is to keep the economy weak as long as possible. So they oppose legislation we know beyond a shadow of a doubt will support 400,000 American jobs without adding a penny to the deficit.”
The bill would boost states and localities, which have laid off large numbers of teachers, firefighters and others as a result of declining tax revenue during the down economy.
Nearly 300,000 education jobs have been lost since 2008, and state and local budget crisis will put as many as 280,000 teacher jobs at risk next year, Democrats estimate. The Senate bill will more than offset projected layoffs, providing support for nearly 400,000 education jobs, they say.
“In Nevada, this legislation will provide an additional $260 million to keep teachers in the classroom and maintain class sizes. It will support 3,600 education jobs in the state, and pump much-needed money back into the economy,” Reid says.
He touts opinion poll results which find overwhelming public support for the legislation, including backing from Republicans nationwide.
“Seventy-five percent of Americans believe we should help state and local governments put teachers, police and firefighters back to work. And 76 percent of Americans agree the wealthiest people in this country should help get our economy back on track,” Reid says.
“I repeat: three out of four Americans – including two-thirds of Republicans – support the Democrats’ Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act,” he adds. “Republicans in Congress aren’t just out of touch with America – they’re out of touch with other Republicans.”
A majority of Republicans even support the Democrats’ plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for the bill, Reid says.
“Republicans, like the rest of Americans, do not oppose our proposal to ask millionaires to contribute their fair share. On the contrary, they support the proposal,” he says. “It is only here in Congress that Republicans oppose job-creating legislation and fair tax policy for the sake of politics.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.