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Competing infrastructure spending measures fail in Senate

From Ted Barrett, CNN Congressional Producer
updated 10:03 PM EDT, Thu November 3, 2011
The Senate rejected competing proposals to boost construction of roadways and other infrastructure projects.
The Senate rejected competing proposals to boost construction of roadways and other infrastructure projects.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Vote shows GOP senators "out of touch with Americans," White House says
  • NEW: Boehner unveils plan for bill tying infrastructure spending to energy revenue
  • Republicans block $60 billion bill that relied on surtax on $1 million earners
  • Democrats reject GOP measure to ease construction regulations

Washington (CNN) -- In a pair of votes aimed more at making political points than law, the Senate rejected competing Democratic and Republican proposals to boost construction of roadways and other infrastructure projects.

Republicans blocked the Democratic bill, which would have approved about $50 billion for projects and another $10 billion to start an "infrastructure bank," because it relied on a surtax on people earning more than $1 million a year.

Democrats have tried to pass the surtax multiple times in an effort to convince voters that Republicans care more about their wealthy constituents than about putting the unemployed back to work.

Republicans dispute that and argue that the special tax would hit small businesses the hardest, which would curtail hiring.

The White House issued a press release Thursday evening saying the GOP is "out of touch with Americans from all ends of the political spectrum."

"It makes no sense when you consider that this bill was made up of the same kinds of common-sense proposals that many of these senators have fought for in the past," the statement said. "It was fully paid for. And even though it was supported by more than 70% of the American people -- Republicans, Democrats, and independents -- 100% of Senate Republicans said no."

Democrats rejected a Republican proposal that was aimed, in part, at speeding infrastructure spending by easing regulations that can slow construction, because they oppose GOP plans to offset its cost by rescinding $40 billion in spending approved for this year. Democrats said that violated an agreement about spending levels reached during the debt-ceiling negotiations this year.

Neither measure could reach the 60-vote threshold for approval.

The Democratic measure failed 51-49. Two members of the Democratic caucus, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined all Republican senators in voting against it. Nelson is facing a potentially difficult re-election fight.

The Republican measure failed on a vote of 47-53. Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted for the GOP bill, and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine voted against it. Both are up for re-election.

Also on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner unveiled plans to move a separate infrastructure bill through that chamber. The GOP-backed measure would provide "a new, devoted revenue stream" by tying infrastructure spending to expanded domestic energy production, using revenue generated from new production to help pay for infrastructure initiatives across the country.

"This is, I think, the opposite of stimulus, by linking infrastructure to energy reform and permanently removing barriers to job growth, instead of just spending money on short-term fixes," Boehner said.

Details of the measure are not yet available, but Boehner said he hoped to introduce the bill in the next couple of weeks and then pass the bill through the House before the end of the year. "The president says he wants more money for infrastructure and he's said he supports more American-made energy, so I hope he'll work with us on this," Boehner said.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Kate Bolduan contributed to this report.

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