GWEN IFILL: The struggle to put Americans back to work dominated the day in Congress, from President Obama’s jobs bill, to free trade, to China’s currency.
NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has the story.
KWAME HOLMAN: The legislative future of the president’s jobs plan was as murky today as the rain clouds over the Capitol. Last night, Senate Republicans blocked the Democrats’ version of the $450 billion bill, saying it wouldn’t work and might make things worse.
MAN: The motion is not agreed to.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president vowed today to keep pushing, as he addressed a Latino heritage event in Washington.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will not take no for an answer. We will keep organizing, and we will keep pressuring, and we will keep voting until this Congress finally meets its responsibilities and actually does something to put people back to work and improve the economy.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Senate Democrats began calling for action on separate parts of the Obama proposal, from payroll tax cuts to public works spending.
And Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged Republicans.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev. majority leader: Even though they have supported each piece of the American Jobs Act in the past, they blocked this job-creating legislation, in the hopes of doing political damage to the president. But we have not given up on creating jobs in America. And we will not let Republican political games stand between Congress and its most important duty: to put 14 million Americans back to work.
KWAME HOLMAN: In turn, the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, charged, the president and his party were never really serious about the bill.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky. minority leader: The White House has made it clear that the president is praying for gridlock. He’s actually hoping for gridlock, so he has somebody besides himself to point the finger at next November.
I would like to repeat my call to the president to put the political playbook aside and work with us instead on the kind of bipartisan job creating legislation that the American people truly want.
KWAME HOLMAN: In fact, there was bipartisan unity today on another economic package: new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Supporters said they’d boost U.S. exports by $13 billion. The deals date from President George W. Bush’s administration, but they’d been delayed by a fight over helping workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition.
Lawmakers from both sides touted the trade deals today as U.S. job-creators. The National Association of Manufacturers said higher exports will lead to 100,000 jobs. The White House went further, estimating several hundred thousand. But some labor groups counter that the trade deals will worsen the trade deficit and actually cost the country 200,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a China currency bill last night, and backers claimed it, too, could create jobs. It would impose tariffs on China for manipulating its currency to give its goods unfair advantage.
But the bill faced uncertain prospects in the House.
Speaker John Boehner:
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, speaker of the House: Given the volatility in the world markets, given the uncertainty about the world economy, for the Congress of the United States to be taking this step at this moment in time poses a very severe risk of a trade war and unintended consequences that could come as a result.
KWAME HOLMAN: The White House, too, has responded warily to the China currency bill. Officials said today they’re discussing their concerns with lawmakers.