WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is jumping into the partisan fray in the Senate next week, leading the charge on the Democrats' latest bill from President Obama's jobs plan.
The Minnesota Democrat is expected to introduce the Rebuild America Jobs Act on Monday, which would provide $50 billion in infrastructure spending and create a $10 billion national infrastructure bank. Republicans are balking at the bill because it's paid for by increasing income taxes 0.7 percent on millionaires.
Senate Republicans have already blocked similar tax provisions from previous jobs bills for teachers and first responder. Klobuchar has been slammed by national and state Republicans because of the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said would get a vote next week.
For Klobuchar, getting in the middle of a partisan fight is a change from her usual style in the Senate. More than three-fourths of Klobuchar's co-sponsored bills this year have Republicans on board.
Klobuchar's willingness to take the lead on a bill that's likely doomed to party-line defeat highlights Klobuchar's strong election prospects one year from her first re-election race. Klobuchar has received only nominal opposition from Republicans, with every big name in the state party -- from former Gov. Tim Pawlenty to former Sen. Norm Coleman -- declining to take her on.
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said Klobuchar has little to worry about for now.
"The three candidates in the race now that have little name recognition and even less money, so to her credit, the senator looks in pretty good shape," Duffy said. "It's so unusual this cycle, because incumbents are really struggling of both parties and of all stripes, just because voters are so frustrated with Congress."
Klobuchar has built up a $4 million war chest, while her Republican opposition, 2010 GOP Secretary of State candidate Dan Severson and St. Bonifacius City Council member Joe Arwood, have $28,000 and $7,000 in the bank respectively.
Klobuchar says the infrastructure bill is not about partisan politics, but addresses an important need -- fixing the country's aging infrastructure.
"These truly have had bipartisan support in the past," said Klobuchar, who said her interest in infrastructure dates back to the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. "I believe there's some merit within the chamber for this, whether passes on the first try or not."
In Minnesota, Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton said that "it's not surprising that Sen. Klobuchar is the 'sweet' being trotted out to complement Harry Reid's 'sour' proposal for yet another massive federal stimulus bill."
Among the bill's $50 billion in infrastructure spending is $27 billion for road, bridge and rail infrastructure, $9 billion for transit and $4 billion for high-speed rail.
Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723 Twitter: @StribHerb