Last night, the Senate voted on one piece of President Obama’s jobs bill — $35 billion in funding for states to protect the jobs of teachers and first responders who might be laid off due to budget constraints. The measure failed to overcome a filibuster by a 50–50 vote. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who voted against Obama’s entire jobs bill when it was put up for a vote earlier this month, voted against this more targeted measure. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) also broke ranks to join Nelson and Lieberman in voting against the bill last night.
It’s rather difficult to understand Pryor’s position. On his Senate website, the Arkansas senator touts his own “Six point solution to job creation” — a nine-page PDF document which touts the need for education funding. In a section titled “Preparing tomorrow’s job-generators to compete (and win),” Pryor’s jobs plan claims that it ensures “that Arkansans have the right education and training…because a competitive workforce is vital to growing the economy.” That appears to be empty rhetoric from Pryor, given that he just voted against a bill that would have provided over $275 million to support over 4,000 jobs for Arkansas’ educators.
The bill last night also would have provided funding for “the creation of additional jobs for, law enforcement officers and other first responders.” Again, Pryor has a very recent history of promoting the need for funding first responders because, as he said, “firefighters put their lives on the line to protect their communities” and therefore need federal funds to “do their jobs efficiently and effectively.”
So why did Pryor vote to defeat funding for education and first responders that he purportedly supports? It might have something to do with the fact that bill imposes a surtax on millionaires. In the past, Pryor has voted against such efforts. And yet, just last month, his office expressed this concern: “It is maddening that hundreds of millionaires pay virtually no federal income taxes, and this should change.”
What is truly maddening is trying to understand why Pryor can’t vote in a way that is consistent with his rhetoric.