BOSTON — A month after taking the oath of office and becoming the first Republican to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate in three decades, Sen. Scott Brown unveiled his first piece of legislation Wednesday.
Brown’s amendment to a jobs bill Democrats are pushing would put approximately $80 billion in unused federal stimulus funds toward an across-the-board reduction in payroll taxes. Brown says the proposal would save individual workers more than $500 over a six-month period and would help stimulate the economy.
Speaking to WBUR Wednesday morning, Brown said he believes his plan would create jobs more effectively than direct government initiatives.
“This allows people to go out and spend monies as they see fit, in pursuance of their needs, and not the government’s needs,” Brown said. “The government always thinks they can do more with your money than you should be able to do. I would rather put it in the pockets of individual citizens versus creating another government job or government slush fund.”
Brown sided with Democrats last week in voting to advance, and then voting for, the proposed jobs bill. The Republican cited that bipartisan effort Wednesday, saying “there seems to be more of that happening now.” He said he hopes his amendment wins bipartisan support as well.
“This is something I’ve been working on since I got here,” he said. “I’m hopeful there will be a new bipartisan effort to jump on board and put money back in people’s pockets in their own states. We’ll see.”
Brown’s willingness to vote across party lines on the jobs bill was met with criticism by some of his supporters, but the senator said he told people during the election that he would vote across party lines “when it’s appropriate.” He said the jobs bill was not perfect, but “a good first step” based on a number of bipartisan principles.
By all accounts, however, Brown’s bipartisan voting will not extend to President Obama’s proposed health care overhaul. Despite Mr. Obama’s televised summit and inclusion of GOP proposals, the Republican spoke against the legislation Wednesday.
“From the indications we’re getting, it’s a regurgitation of the Senate plan and it still calls for a half a trillion (dollars) in Medicare cuts and still will cost over a $1 trillion,” Brown said. “And if they’re gonna try to do the nuclear option or reconciliation to ram this thing through in a non-bipartisan effort, I think that’s a huge mistake.”
Echoing the criticism of other Senate Republicans, Brown also said he takes issue with health care’s legislative process. He predicted the effort would cause backlash with voters.
“If they use the political chicanery and parliamentary maneuvers to basically take over 1/6 of an industry and change it using a parliamentary maneuver without really broad-based support,” Brown said, “I think it’s going to be problematic in the midterm elections.”
Brown received his committee assignments Tuesday from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He got two of the three appointments he wanted and will serve on the Senate’s Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Veterans Affairs Committees.
On Wednesday, Sen. Brown said he has a lot of work to do to carry out his goals on the military-focused agenda.
“Aside from a lack of sleep and not having enough time during the day, (my agenda) will be certainly trying to provide the tools and resources to our troops, take care of our veterans after they’ve served, and try to address the very real homeland security issues effecting our state and our country,” he said.