WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans voted to defeat an effort by the Democratic majority to bring up legislation that would take aim at U.S. multi-national corporations moving manufacturing jobs overseas.
The attempt by Democrats to turn to the legislation rather than dealing with the more thorny question of how to deal with the expiring Bush-era tax cuts was largely a political decision heading into the November midterm elections.
Democratic leaders had all but conceded they didn't have the requisite 60 votes to begin debate on the Senate floor on the legislation, but they said they wanted to get Republicans on record voting against an attempt to protect U.S. jobs.
"It's an important political message when the number one issue is jobs," Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) said Monday. "I want to tell you, I think [Republicans'] position on this is indefensible."
Republicans countered that the legislation would raise taxes on the largest U.S. companies, which are responsible for much of the job growth in the country.
In the end, the vote was 53-45 with four Democrats and one Independent senator joining Republicans in voting against proceeding with legislation. These included Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), the powerful chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. The other Democrats were Sens. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), Jon Tester (D., Mont.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.), along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.).
The bill would have used a combination of tax penalties and credits to induce large employers to retain manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
It would have ended two tax measures currently available to large corporations that Democrats argue allows firms shipping jobs overseas to benefit from doing so.
One credit that would have been ended currently permits companies that close U.S. facilities in favor of opening a factory overseas to claim the expenses they incur in doing so off their income tax burden.
Another tax break Democrats wanted to close would affect the ability to defer payment of income tax on revenue generated overseas by U.S firms.
Those companies that have moved operations overseas but continue to sell products back into the U.S. would lose the right to defer the taxes on this income. This portion of the bill has been voted on separately by Senate lawmakers before and defeated.
A third prong of the bill would reward firms that have previously shipped jobs overseas by offering a payroll tax holiday on new employees they hire in the U.S.
With the defeat, Democrats will not likely address the issue of offshoring jobs until after the midterm elections to be held on Nov. 2.
The U.S. manufacturing sector has been one of the hardest hit by the severe economic downturn, and states that have a significant manufacturing base are those with the highest jobless rates.
But there have been recent of positive growth, with employment growth in the sector outstripping that in the wider economy in recent months.