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Senate Clears Procedural Hurdle on Jobs Bill

Correction Appended

The Senate voted 62-30 to take up the first in a series of job-creation proposals after a fierce whipping effort by Democratic leaders.

Five Republicans voted in favor of the cloture motion: Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Kit Bond (Mo.), George Voinovich (Ohio), and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote “no.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been courting Brown to vote for the jobs bill, but last week’s announcement that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) would miss the vote after being diagnosed with a treatable stomach cancer forced Reid to find at least one more GOP vote to overcome a filibuster.

“I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families,” Brown said in a statement, adding that he was “disappointed with the continuation of politics-as-usual in the drafting of this bill.”

In a floor statement just before the vote, Reid also decried the partisanship surrounding the jobs package.

“Republicans have supported every part of this bill in the past, and Democrats have done the same,” he said. “There is simply no reason it should not receive overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.”

While he was working the GOP side of the aisle for votes, Reid also had to keep a splintered Democratic caucus together. Some criticized Reid for introducing a stripped down version of the bipartisan agreement brokered by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), while others felt bipartisan talks led by Baucus would not yield enough Republican votes.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a moderate who believed the process should have been more inclusive toward Republicans, cited the partisan fighting over the jobs bill as part of his frustration with Washington and a contributing factor in his stepping down after two terms. Bayh voted in favor of the cloture motion Monday.

Reid had hoped to move the bill two weeks ago before the Senate adjourned for a Congressional recess, but unprecedented snowstorms in Washington and ongoing negotiations pushed action to this week. With approval of the jobs package expected as soon as Wednesday, Reid said the Senate will move next to a travel promotion bill. The travel bill, which aims to boost tourism and would be a major boon for Reid’s badly hit state of Nevada, was passed by the Senate last year but was never signed into law.

Before the end of the week, the Senate must also approve a handful of short-term extensions of the USA PATRIOT Act, unemployment insurance and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

Correction: Feb. 23, 2010

The article mischaracterized Monday’s Senate vote. Senators voted 62-30 to beat back a GOP filibuster and take up the first in a series of jobs bills. Also, the article incorrectly stated that Reid was unsuccessful in passing a travel promotion bill last year. In fact, the Senate did clear that measure.

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