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Democrats Cheer Passage of $17 Billion Jobs Bill

Updated: March 18, 4:04 p.m.

Senate Democrats hailed the passage of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) $17 billion jobs bill Wednesday, saying the victory underscores the majority’s focus on job creation.

“We’re very pleased that our strategy … to focus like a laser here on jobs and move these targeted bills is working,” Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said following the chamber’s 68-29 vote in favor of the bill.

Eleven Republicans — Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), James Inhofe (Okla.), George LeMieux (Fla.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and George Voinovich (Ohio) — joined 57 Democrats in voting for the bill. Moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was the only Democrat to vote against it.

The HIRE Act, which includes an extension of the Highway Trust Fund, a set of tax provisions and other measures, is the first in a series of jobs bills and other items Reid has lumped into a “jobs agenda.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), argued the agenda is aimed at helping boost job creation and “make it possible to say ‘made in America’ again. That’s what this is all about.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed, arguing that Wednesday’s passage of the legislation “is really a turning point. This is the first major bill to go to the president this year.”

Schumer also said Reid’s decision to pursue a narrower bill rather than a much larger jobs package backed by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) shows that Democrats want to focus on the economy in a bipartisan manner. “There are two words that characterize [the vote]: jobs and bipartisanship,” Schumer said. “The fact that we got 11 Republicans on board shows we want to be bipartisan.”

Schumer, Stabenow and Boxer indicated that virtually every piece of legislation the Senate will take up this year will be about creating jobs, including the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill currently on the floor and efforts to deal with China’s currency, which critics say is undervalued and gives the country a competitive trade advantage. Schumer argued that addressing the Chinese currency issue “would probably create more jobs than anything” else Congress does this year.

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