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Senate snubs jobs bill, OKs China penalty

President Obama’s economic agenda took a drubbing Tuesday in the Senate.

A procedural vote to advance Obama’s nearly $450 billion jobs bill failed to attract 60 votes required for passage.

Earlier, the Democratic Senate approved legislation that would impose trade sanctions against China for fixing the value of its currency, a measure the White House had not endorsed.

The American Jobs Act, which would upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and schools, cut payroll taxes for workers and businesses and raise taxes for millionaires, stalled in a 50-48 procedural vote. The final tally was delayed so that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., could return to Capitol Hill to vote, letting Democrats show that a majority of the Senate supports the bill.

“Tax increases on job creators and almost half a trillion dollars of more stimulus spending will not strengthen our economy and get Hoosiers back to work,” Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said in a statement after the vote.

Coats and Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, were among the senators – 46 Republicans and two Democrats – who opposed the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, voted for it.

In a speech earlier in Pittsburgh, Obama called the vote “a moment of truth” for the Senate to act on “proposals that have traditionally been bipartisan. Republicans used to want to build roads and bridges. That wasn’t just a Democratic idea.”

The Senate version of Obama’s proposal would impose a 5.6 percent tax on yearly household income of $1 million or more.

The Senate voted 63-35 for Brown’s bill to punish nations that manipulate the value of their currency, which in China’s case makes U.S. imports cheaper and American exports more expensive.

“This is a jobs bill,” Brown said during debate. “We’ve lost about 3 million jobs to China in the last decade, almost all of them manufacturing jobs.”

He said about China’s currency manipulation: “Pure and simple, it’s a tariff, a tax on our exporters trying to sell products in the Chinese market.”

Portman, a former U.S. trade representative, was among several Republicans voting for the bill. Coats and Lugar voted against the legislation, which House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has indicated will not be considered for a vote in that chamber.

House Republicans did give Obama a victory Tuesday by advancing to a final vote free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama in a 281-128 vote.

Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and Ohio’s Bob Latta, R-5th, voted in favor of the legislation. Reps. Dan Burton, R-5th, and Mike Pence, R-6th, did not vote.

bfrancisco@jg.net.

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