Advocates said the measure would stop the layoffs of perhaps 300,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees. Though scaled back, the bill also would salvage a victory for Democrats who have been unable to deliver most of the jobs help that they and Obama had planned.
"This is about saving jobs that are in immediate danger," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "It will allow us to avoid layoffs, service cuts or tax increases and it will make sure our children don't walk through the schoolhouse doors this September to larger class sizes and fewer subjects."
Republicans blasted the measure as a rerun of last year's economic stimulus bill, which has earned poor reviews among many voters as unemployment hovers near 10 percent nationwide. And they called it a giveaway to public employee unions, a key Democratic constituency, just three months before the midterm elections.