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US Senate jobs bill passes key procedural hurdle

world Updated: Feb 23, 2010 08:00 IST

DPA
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A $15-billion jobs creation package passed a key procedural hurdle on Monday in the US Senate, signalling an uneasy truce for a chamber that has been mired in partisan bickering for much of the last year.

Senators voted 62-30 to close debate on the legislation, setting the stage for a final vote on the bill in the coming days. Five Republicans joined with 57 Democrats to vote in favour of the "cloture" motion, which requires a supermajority of 60 votes to pass in the 100-member Senate.

The bulk of the Senate's jobs legislation involves tax incentives for employers to resume hiring, part of an effort to bring the US unemployment rate down from 9.7 percent, near a quarter-century high.

Businesses will get a $5,000 tax credit if they hire a worker who has been jobless for at least six months. The bill extends some federal subsidies for infrastructure spending and was strongly supported by President Barack Obama.

"I hope this is the beginning of a new day here in the Senate," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Senate's top Democrat. "I'm very very happy that we were able to get this done."

Passage of the bill had been in doubt after Reid angered many lawmakers by scuppering a larger bipartisan package that was agreed to by leading Democrats and Republicans.

Instead, he proposed a more incremental approach and promised that other elements of the bipartisan bill will be taken up at a later date. But his move prompted most conservatives to oppose the smaller package.

Among Republicans, most notable was the vote of Senator Scott Brown, whose stunning victory in a special election last month in Massachusetts gave the minority party the 41 votes needed to block legislation in the chamber.

In his first vote since being sworn into office earlier this month, Brown was among five Republicans who supported closing debate on the jobs bill, signalling that he would not always toe the line of his party's leaders.