CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
Oct. 17, 2011 – 11:05 p.m.
Reid Picks First of Four Jobs Bills
By Sam Goldfarb, CQ Staff
Senate Democrats have selected one of the most popular elements of President Obama’s jobs package to become their next legislative offering to boost employment opportunities, a move designed to put Republicans on the defensive on the economy ahead of the 2012 elections.
Following the Senate’s refusal last week to advance a revised version of Obama’s jobs package (
Democratic leaders said Monday that $35 billion in aid to help hire and avert layoffs of teachers and emergency first-responders would be the first bill extracted from the president’s package. The measure would be paid for with a 0.5 percent surtax on household income above $1 million, a smaller version of the 5.6 percent millionaires surtax that Democrats wanted to use to offset the cost of the larger package.
The narrower bill with its smaller tax increase might be more attractive to centrist Democrats and to Republicans who opposed Obama’s original $447 billion package of tax cuts and spending programs. Early signs suggest, however, that the prospect of new spending and higher taxes is likely to send the bill to a quick defeat. That would prompt Senate leaders to bring up yet another narrowly drawn jobs measure, which would be expected to meet a similar fate.
In a conference call Monday, Majority Leader
That lineup would seem to push off a vote on the newest jobs bill until the end of this week or the first days of November, when the Senate returns from a one-week recess scheduled to begin Oct. 24.
Reid declined to detail the content of the other three jobs bills, although they are likely to involve infrastructure spending, an expansion of the Social Security payroll tax cut for employees enacted last December and aid for jobless veterans.
A Popular Provision
Of all the components of Obama’s jobs package, the portions involving tax cuts for employees and small businesses are seen as the likeliest to be accepted by Republicans. Yet Democrats were quick to point out the wide support among voters for extending assistance to teachers and first-responders.
In a recent Gallup poll, such aid was backed by 75 percent of respondents. Only tax cuts for small businesses got a more positive response, while reducing Social Security taxes for workers and companies lagged, with the support of 47 percent of respondents.
“If the Republicans listened to the American people, they would support this legislation,” Reid said.
Democrats, in general, hope to gain by moving the political debate beyond a multifaceted jobs package and onto specific issues, such as the threat of teacher layoffs caused by tepid economic growth and low state and local government tax receipts that have led to tightened budgets.
Reid Picks First of Four Jobs Bills
As with the president’s package, the new jobs measure would allocate $30 billion in grants to states and local governments to spend on teachers and $5 billion in grants to governments and other groups to pay for law enforcement officers and emergency personnel.
During Monday’s conference call, Reid, along with Sens.
“In my home state of New Jersey, we’re facing a $10.5 billion shortfall in the 2012 budget,” Menendez said. “That means more cuts in state and local spending for education. And that hurts our kids.”
“It is disappointing that Senate Democrats are still focused on the same temporary stimulus spending that’s failed to solve our jobs crisis instead of bipartisan legislation that would lead to private-sector job growth,” McConnell said.
He summed up the new bill just as he had the larger package, calling it “a permanent tax hike for a temporary stimulus.”
Senate Republicans last week released their own jobs plan, which focused on familiar proposals, including a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. The plan also would direct the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance panels to rewrite the tax code by eliminating tax breaks and reducing the top individual and corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have put forward a series of bills to curb federal regulations as part of their call to create jobs. And Majority Leader
Appearing Oct. 16 on “Fox News Sunday,” Cantor dismissed Democratic plans to give aid to the states, noting similarities to the 2009 economic stimulus law (PL 111-5) that Republicans deride as a failure.
“We saw what happened with the stimulus money,” he said. “Much of that went to the states, and you know what happened? It sustained some jobs for about a year, and then the states were faced with billions of dollars in debt once that year was over with.”
The teacher and first-responder proposal also has drawn a muted response from state and local government groups concerned that too many strings would be attached to the federal aid. For example, Obama’s proposal included a mandate that would essentially bar cuts to a broad range of programs in fiscal 2012 and 2013 to ensure state and local officials use the money to hire teachers and first-responders, and not for other purposes.
Alan K. Ota contributed to this story.