WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday passed a jobs bill that one senator described as "modest," but one that Democrats hope will be the first in a series of attempts to jump-start hiring nationwide.
More notable, perhaps, than the bill was the fact that 13 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it. The $15 billion bill passed 70-28.
The bill would grant employers a "holiday" on their 6.2 percent Social Security payroll contribution for every new employee hired through the rest of the year, as long as that employee has been out of work for at least 60 days.
It also would make it easier for businesses to write off equipment purchases and would extend federal highway and mass-transit funding programs.
"For the first time in a long time, we have a bill that is supported by both Democrats and Republicans," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., shortly before the vote. But he cautioned, "This is not a magic wand that is going to be waved and all our joblessness will decline."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the vote proved that bipartisanship in the Senate is "possible."
It also marked a victory for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has seen his chamber paralyzed by partisan warfare.
Reid pushed for the vote, counting on some GOP support, and was rewarded earlier this week when several Republicans, including the newest senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, signed on.
The bill now heads to the House, where leaders there must decide whether to pass the Senate bill unchanged or attempt to reconcile it with a much more sweeping $154 billion bill it passed in December.
House Democrats have complained that the Senate's approach is too incremental and won't reshape the employment landscape quickly enough. Still, they may decide that Congress needs to show the public that it's moving forward on job creation.