Washington (CNN) – A jobs bill passed by the House should be approved by the Senate and sent to President Barack Obama as soon as possible, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday.
In a speech at the National Press Club, Hoyer outlined the legislative agenda of House Democrats in an election year for the entire chamber.
Job creation and debt reduction topped Hoyer's list as part of a broad approach to confront the long-term problem of unsustainable government spending.
Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, cited health care reform and energy reform - both passed by the House but facing uncertain fates - as vital legislation for both job creation and reduced spending.
Another House-passed measure - a jobs bill that would use federal bailout money for infrastructure development and other programs creating jobs - also is awaiting action in the Senate.
The jobs bill, which passed on a 217-212 vote, taps $75 billion of bailout funds to pay for more infrastructure projects and assistance for cash-strapped states. It also includes $79 billion in "emergency relief" that includes a six-month extension of unemployment insurance, health care subsidies for those who are out of work, some Medicaid money for states and an extension of the child-care tax credit.
"It is crucial to get a jobs bill to the president's desk as soon as possible," Hoyer said.
However, Hoyer, D-Maryland, expressed frustration with routine filibusters in the Senate that prevent action on bills sent there by the House.
"It's one thing to have a considered process; it's another thing to have a broken process," Hoyer said, adding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ofNevada and his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, shared his frustration.
Filibusters occur when the Senate "invokes cloture" on debate, meaning it holds a vote on whether to begin and end debate on a particular bill. While final passage of a bill requires a simple majority of 51 votes in the 100-seat chamber, cloture needs a 60-vote "super-majority" to succeed.
When the Senate took up the health care bill last year, the votes on cloture were the most vital to the measure getting passed. Both times, the bill received support from all 60 Democrats to squeak by on the cloture votes.
Now, the Democrats have lost their Senate super-majority with last week's election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, giving Republicans the power to block action on any measure.
Hoyer noted that winning 55 percent of the vote in a U.S. election is considered good, but in the Senate, 59 percent is insufficient to pass a bill. Republicans have the right to adopt a posture of "permanent obstruction," but Democrats will be challenging them to contribute to solutions instead of simply opposing the majority party, Hoyer said.
Asked later Tuesday about Hoyer's comment, Reid made light of his Democratic colleague's complaint.
"House leaders have been saying this about the Senate from the very beginning" of the creation of the two-chamber Congress, Reid said. "So I could give him a few comments on how I feel about the House, but I'm not going to."