WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday passed a jobs bill that one senator described as "modest," but one that Democrats hope will be the first in a series of attempts to jump-start hiring nationwide.
More notable, perhaps, than the bill itself was the fact that 13 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it. The $15 billion bill passed by a 70-28 tally.
The bill would grant employers a "holiday" on their 6.2 percent Social Security payroll contribution for every new employee hired through the rest of the year, as long as that employee has been out of work for at least 60 days. It also would make it easier for businesses to write off equipment purchases and would extend federal highway and mass-transit funding programs.
"For the first time in a long time we have a bill that is supported by both Democrats and Republicans," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said shortly before the vote, but he cautioned, "This is not a magic wand that is going to be waved and all our joblessness will decline."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the vote proved that bipartisanship in the Senate is "possible." It also marked a victory for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has seen his chamber paralyzed by partisan warfare. Reid pushed for the vote counting on some GOP support and was rewarded earlier this week when several Republicans, including the newest senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, signed on.
The bill now heads to the House, where leaders there must decide whether to pass the Senate bill unchanged or attempt to reconcile it with a much more sweeping $154 billion bill it passed in December.