Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Job Bill Clears Hurdle in U.S. Senate With Republican Support

A $15 billion jobs bill cleared a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate yesterday after a handful of Republicans, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts, broke with their party leaders to help advance the Democratic measure.

The vote that allows the measure to proceed was 62-30, with 60 needed to overcome Republican stalling tactics. Most Republicans opposed the bill after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scaled back an $85 billion jobs-related measure that had been crafted in committee by a group of Democrats and Republicans.

Reid said the Senate will take a final vote on the stripped-down bill “in a day or so.”

Brown, in just his third vote since being seated earlier this month, said that while the bill was “not perfect” he “came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside and to do everything in my power to create jobs for Massachusetts families.”

Also siding with Democrats were Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Christopher Bond of Missouri and George Voinovich of Ohio. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the sole Democrat to vote against advancing the bill.

Democrats, who lost their 60-vote supermajority with Brown’s surprise win in a special election last month, needed support from at least two Republicans in yesterday’s vote because New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg is being treated for stomach cancer.

Obama ‘Grateful’

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he was “grateful to the Democratic and Republican senators who voted to support” the bill’s provisions.

“The American people want to see Washington put aside partisan differences and make progress on jobs” and with yesterday’s vote “the Senate took one important step forward in doing that,” Obama said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said lawmakers there may pass the Senate plan without any changes.

The measure’s centerpiece is a $13 billion plan to fight joblessness by offering companies a one-year holiday from paying a 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax for each worker they hire who has been jobless for at least 60 days. The plan would save or create as many as 234,000 jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The plan would spend $2 billion to aid state governments by expanding subsidies for bonds used to finance construction projects, give small businesses more power to write off expenses and transfer $19.5 billion in tax revenue into the government’s highway trust fund.

Republican Demand

Republican leaders had demanded a chance to restore provisions Reid dropped earlier this month, including a package of business-related tax cuts. Reid’s decision amounted to a bet that at least a few Republicans wouldn’t vote against his stripped-down bill in an election year when the economy is at the top of the list of voters’ concerns.

The provisions eliminated by Reid included an extension in unemployment benefits, a package of individual and business tax cuts worth $31 billion, and provisions preventing looming cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. Reid said lawmakers would take up those items later.

The House approved a jobs bill in December costing more than $150 billion. It would spend $53 billion to extend unemployment benefits, $24 billion to help states to pay their Medicaid bills, $48 billion for infrastructure and $26 billion to shore up funding for public service jobs.

Source Link: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-23/job-bill-clears-hurdle-in-u-s-senate-with-republican-support.html
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