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Jobs bill clears filibuster in Senate

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan jobs bill cleared a GOP filibuster on Monday with critical momentum provided by the Senate's newest Republican, Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

The 62-30 tally to advance the measure to a final vote on Wednesday gives both President Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats a much-needed victory — even though the measure in question is likely to spur only a modest boost in hiring.

Brown and four other Republicans broke with GOP leaders to advance the measure. Most other Republicans voted in favor of the filibuster because of strong-arm tactics by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The bill is likely to enjoy far broader GOP support on Wednesday when it's put to an up-or-down vote.

The bill featured four provisions that enjoyed sweeping bipartisan support, including a measure exempting businesses hiring the unemployed from Social Security payroll taxes through December and giving them another $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year.

Though employers seldom make hiring decisions based on tax breaks, economist Mark Zandi says the measure could potentially create 250,000 new private-sector jobs.

Reid's bill is a far smaller measure than Obama's $862 billion economic stimulus bill enacted a year ago. It's also significantly smaller than a rival bipartisan bill unveiled earlier this month by two senior senators.

The legislation also would renew highway programs through December and deposit $20 billion in the highway trust fund.

"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," said Brown, whose election last month gave Republicans the 41st vote that could sustain GOP filibusters. "This Senate jobs bill is not perfect... but I voted for it because it contains measures that will help put people back to work ."

In addition to the hiring tax incentives and highway funding, the bill would extend a tax break for small businesses buying new equipment and modestly expand an initiative that helps state and local governments finance infrastructure projects.

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