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Casey, Reid & Menendez Plug Piecemeal Jobs Approach

Casey (left), Reid, and Menendez (right)

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

Pennsylvania’s education system isn’t the only one feeling the effects of the tough economy.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in a conference call Monday afternoon to announce their Putting Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, legislation that would give $35 billion to states and local governments to rehire and/or prevent layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

It’s the first part of an effort to pass President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act in piecemeal fashion, starting with those elements of the legislation that have the broadest public support.

“If we want to ensure that we are on a path to recovery then we need to focus on job creation,” said Senator Casey. “Police officers, fire fighters and teachers are the last jobs we can afford to lose. This common-sense measure will help ensure that our streets are safe and families are prepared during these difficult times.”

Casey, Reid and Menendez each talked about the impacts of recent budget cuts in their home states.

When Barack Obama announced his new $447 million jobs package to a joint session of Congress in early September, Sen. Casey immediately cautioned the President against a bill of that size.

Emphasizing that he agrees with the policies in Obama’s jobs package, Casey has argued that the bill would be better off broken down into “more digestible pieces.” In an interview with Colby Itkowiz of The Morning Call last week as Obama plugged the bill in Pittsburgh, Casey said that considering the partisan gridlock which has become the norm in Washington, Obama’s bill is simply too big to pass.

Casey supported the full package when it came to vote, but after it failed on mostly partisan lines, said “it’s time to start breaking it apart.”

On the call, Casey represented the bill as a bipartisan way to create jobs which is focused on “kids, jobs and the communities.”

“It’s about responding to what’s a priority in PA,” said Casey.

Casey reported that PA has lost 1500 in jobs in education, and there also been huge impacts on law enforcement.  He cautioned that the poor economy has led to increased crime, however there are fewer of officers to deal with the rising crime rate and argued that passing this bill would directly meet the needs of public safety.

The American Jobs Act came under scrutiny as a “second stimulus” by Republicans, who gave Casey’s bill the same tag.

Said Chris Bond, Press Secretary of the National Republican State Committee in a statement:

“With our economy still in a deep ditch thanks to their failed economic agenda, it seems all Bob Casey and President Obama have to offer is more government spending, more debt, and more taxes.  Both Casey and President Obama can expect to be held accountable for their job-killing policies at the polls next year.”

Although they were boosting a supposedly uncontroversial bill, the Senators took direct aim at Republicans in Congress.

“We are only doing things that Republicans have agreed on before.  The only problem is, they were directed by Bush and not Obama,” said Reid.

According to Menendez, over 27,000 communities nationwide applied to receive funding for over 9,000 police officers. He blamed Republican opposition for the fact that only $42 billion was available and just 238 communities received the financial assistance.

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