Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Disappointing Senate Jobs Bill That's All Too Easy to Forget

If you've already forgotten about the small Senate jobs bill that was approved in February, here's a refresher on what the bill included, and how disappointed progressive groups are in its small size and lack of ambition, in the face of a ferocious unemployment crisis.

Maybe the only thing that can be said was at the time, the Republicans were seeking to lard the bill up with even more tax breaks for business, so as a tactical matter, Reid may have been smart to cut his losses.

Now that health care reform is done -- why not hammer, hammer, hammer on the Senate to pass a much larger jobs bill. This could include the Jobs for Main Street Act passed by the House in December, with a margin of one vote and no Republican help. It could also include the Local Jobs for America Act (HR 4812) proposed by Rep. George Miller, and the Put America to Work Act bill (HR 4268) proposed by Rep. Keith Ellison. It could include the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269) proposed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and the Public Lands Restoration and Job Creation Act proposed by Rep. Linda Sanchez (HR 4291), among others. And finally, the Congress should cough up more help and support for ailing state economies.

With unemployment at sky-high levels, the key problem we ought to be worried right now -- as Richard Trumka and others have wisely pointed out -- is CREATING JOBS AND PUTTING PEOPLE BACK TO WORK, not reducing the deficit. Leaving workers and the states to twist in the wind for months or years ought to be completely unacceptable to policymakers and voters across the board.

Senate approves $15 billion jobs bill

By Tami Luhby, senior writer
February 24, 2010: 11:42 AM ET

NEW YORK ( -- The Senate on Wednesday approved a $15 billion job-creation bill that would give businesses tax breaks for hiring the unemployed and states more money for infrastructure projects.

The four-prong bill would:

Exempt employers from Social Security payroll taxes on new hires who were unemployed;
Fund highway and transit programs through 2010;
Extend a tax break for business that spend money on capital investments, such as equipment purchases;
Expand the use of the Build America Bonds program, which helps states and municipalities fund capital construction projects.

The legislation, approved by a 70-28 vote, is a scaled-down version of an $85 billion bipartisan draft bill that was crafted by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Some 13 Republicans, including newly elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., voted for the measure Wednesday.

"Today's progress is a small step forward but an important one," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who surprised many lawmakers last week when he announced the slimmed-down measure. "This morning's vote is a victory for hard-working Americans, especially those trying to find work. This will help our economy grow."

It now moves to the House, which may take it up as soon as Friday, said a Democratic aide at the House, which passed a more comprehensive $154 billion bill in December.
However, the bill does not extend the deadline to apply for unemployment benefits or the Cobra health insurance subsidy. Some 1.2 million people will run out of benefits after Feb. 28 if the deadline is not extended. Lawmakers are looking to pass a separate, shorter extension by the end of the week in order to give them time to enact a longer fix.

Also, unlike the House's bill, the Senate's jobs measure does not provide additional assistance for states. Many governors want the Obama administration to send more federal dollars so they can cope with yawning budget gaps.

The administration said on Monday that it strongly supports the $15 billion jobs measure but indicated it is only one step in the job-creation effort. The president wants lawmakers to take up a bill that would increase small businesses' access to credit.

Reid said the Senate will vote on extending tax provisions and small business job measures in the near future. The majority leader also said lawmakers will consider providing additional Medicaid money for states, which governors have been requesting.

"We have other things in mind," Reid said. "Remember, we don't have a jobs bill, we have a jobs agenda."

Still, labor leaders and left-leaning think tanks say the Senate must do more to spur job creation.
"We need to create 11 million jobs to get back to the level of unemployment we had before the recession began," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. "Yet the Senate jobs bill would create no more than a couple hundred thousand jobs."

CNN Radio Correspondent Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.

Unions and liberal groups blast Reid’s $15 billion jobs legislation as 'puny'

By Walter Alarkon - 02/22/10 07:00 AM ET

Unions and liberal groups have dismissed Sen. Harry Reid’s $15 billion jobs bill as "puny" while calling for larger stimulus measures.More than two dozen organizations, including the AFL-CIO,

National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and National Council of La Raza, warned Democratic leaders in Congress to avoid tackling the troubled economy through incremental action.

They urged the Senate to pass the $15 billion jobs measure, which features a hiring tax cut for small businesses, but called for much more legislation to bring down an unemployment rate the White House projects to average 10 percent this year, more than 9 percent next year and over 8 percent in 2012.

"If this $15 billion was the only thing [that passed], that would be like having an amputated arm and sticking a Band-Aid on the end of it," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, on a conference call Friday.Lawrence Mishel, head of the union-backed Economic Policy Institute think tank, described the $15 billion bill being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as "small, puny.

"In addition to the $13 billion hiring tax credit, Reid's bill includes money to extend the federal trust fund for highway and other transportation projects, a tax break allowing businesses to write off losses from depreciating equipment and bonds for state and local government infrastructure projects. Reid has set up a Monday procedural vote to bring the bill up for debate, and Democrats hope to pass it later next week.

The left-leaning coalition is proposing its own jobs package that goes beyond the House Democrats' $154 billion jobs bill, which passed without House Republican votes in December.In a letter to Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the coalition called for an extension of increased unemployment and COBRA healthcare benefits for the rest of the year. The House bill provides $63 billion for a three-month extension of those benefits, which are set to expire in February.

The liberal groups' jobs package also calls for $40 billion for public works and job training programs, $70 billion for school construction, $10 billion in loans for low-income homeowners facing foreclosure and other provisions making it easier for distressed homeowners to keep their property. The coalition's criticism of the Senate bill echoes that of liberal Democrats.Pelosi said last week that House members want the pieces of their jobs bill, which features infrastructure spending and fiscal aid to state and local governments hoping to stave off public worker layoffs, in the legislative package that Congress sends to President Barack Obama.

"The House looks forward to reviewing the Senate proposal and working together on legislation that creates jobs and helps our families, small businesses and workers," Pelosi said in a statement.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said job-creation measures should include fewer tax breaks and more spending to directly create jobs. Brown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said the senator will back the bill but wants it to be part of a series of job measures this year.

"He wants to see legislation that helps unfreeze the credit market for businesses, helps manufacturers retool for the clean-energy economy, extends unemployment insurance and COBRA assistance and provides increased support to states so that programs essential to Ohioans can continue," Dubyak said.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


WPA Posters

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.