WASHINGTON — Republicans continued their unified front against President Obama's jobs package, blocking $60 billion in funding for road and infrastructure projects despite indications Republicans are sensitive about losing ground on a top issue for voters.
The GOP has shown great discipline as it fights the president's $447 billion jobs plan, even as polls show Americans largely support the various elements of the proposal.
Senate Democrats thought that by peeling off such provisions — the highway measure was among the most popular — they could pressure Republicans to cross party lines. But Thursday's outcome was no different than past attempts.
"Washington has become so dysfunctional," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who co-sponsored the bill but also supported a GOP alternative that died along party lines.
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The 51-49 vote in the Senate, as two Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition, comes as Republicans and Democrats are vying for the public's approval on the jobs front, a top issue for voters.
After a year that has largely been consumed by bruising budget battles, Republicans understand that with the nation's high unemployment rate they cannot simply oppose the president and must highlight their alternative approach.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, rolled out a new GOP jobs initiative Thursday as a Quinnipiac Poll showed Democrats have an edge over Republicans in Congress for the first time headin g into the 2012 election. Although previous polls have shown essentially equal approval ratings between both parties, the Quinnipiac poll showed Democrats with an eight-point advantage.
Boehner proposes expanding domestic energy production, including oil drilling, and putting the proceeds toward highway infrastructure needs.
"This represents a better way," Boehner told reporters.
Until now the GOP largely has relied on bills that would undo federal regulations and lower taxes to spur economic growth and create jobs.