Senate Passes Jobs Bill - What Will The House Do With It?
This week, the U.S. Senate passed HR 2847, the jobs bill, by a more than comfortable margin:
The Senate voted 70-28 on Wednesday morning to pass a $15 billion jobs package, giving Senate Democrats their first legislative victory of the year.
Thirteen Republicans joined 55 Democrats and two independents to vote for the bill. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was the only Democrat to vote against it.
Final passage of the bill was made possible by the support of Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) and four other Republicans who voted Monday to cut off a GOP filibuster.
OpenCongress.org summarizes the main elements:
1) Payroll tax exemption for new hires —Exempts social security payroll taxes immediately for every worker hired in 2010 that has been unemployed for at least 60 days.
2) Tax write-offs — Allows small businesses to write off equipment purchases as tax-free business expenses rather than depreciating them over time.
3) “Build America Bonds” — Extends a provision from the stimulus that lets state and local governments borrow from the federal government at lower costs to finance infrastructure projects and, thus, create jobs.
4) Highway Trust Fund Extension — Replenishes and reauthorizes the highway trust fund, which uses gas taxes to help state and local governments pay for road repair projects.
You can read the bill, also known as the Hiring Incentive to Restore Employment Act, or HIRE Act, and its history here.
Although Melissa McEwan at Shakesville remains "...amazed how many of the GOP caucus refused to vote for this bill," Scott Brown's involvement received a great deal of attention. Gotta Laff's commentary captured one common tone when she wrote, "That sound you hear is the collective swearing at and the rotten tomatoes hitting Scott Brown."
However, I think Just a Conservative Girl comes closer to reality (having grown up in Connecticut and being married to a born and bred Boston man, I understand her logic intuitively):
Much ado has been made about Senator Brown's vote for cloture on the "jobs" bill. While I do agree that it really is nothing more than another "stimulus" bill that has a different name, it should come as no surprise he voted yes for this.
During the campaign Brown called himself a Massachusetts Republican. The meaning of that should have been clear. New England republicans are no Jim DeMint's or Michele Bachmann's. I grew up in New England. While there are pockets of staunch conservatives, it is not the norm. Most people are center/left of center. That is the reality. The republican parties in New England states are different than they are in say the midwest or south.
Let's not forget that one of Brown's most well-known yet pants-on-fire critiques of the Obama administration was that not a single job was created by the first stimulus package last year. His support of this bill, at this time, is not insignificant, even if it's not earthshattering.
So, like they say in the Wizard of Oz, is this a good bill or a bad bill? We need jobs - everyone needs jobs, right? According to Catherine Rampell at Economix:
Most of the criticisms I’ve heard from economists about the Senate bill have to do with the size (that the individual tax cuts employers would get may not be big enough, and the overall cost of the program is too small); the simplicity versus fairness issue (that the bill may encourage cheating because credits are given even if new employees are just replacing old ones); and targeting (that the requirement to hire only the long-term unemployed may be an obtrusive condition, though there is disagreement on that point).
On the other hand, I have heard praise about the simplicity of the bill, as well as the timing of the subsidies (because for the most part they are given upfront rather than refunded).
At least two constituencies that feel left out are blogging about it: Homeless advocates who want funding for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and veterans, whom advocates say have a much higher unemployment rate and, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, are being hit particularly hard.
Despite Politico reporting late Wednesday and again later that some House members say they will nix the bill and that the chamber does not have enough votes to pass it, The Hill reports tonight that, according to Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) a deal is in the works and the bill could be signed before the weekend.
Van Hollen...said leaders are weighing two strategies. They could either pass the Senate package as is and amend the highway portion of the bill [which is a big sticking point for some Blue Dog members] in future legislation or make the needed changes to the bill and send it back to the Senate for approval. He admitted the latter choice comes with some risks since it requires the Senate to approve the amended bill.
More than just the $135 billion (yes, billion) difference between the Senate version and the House version of the jobs bill are keeping passage from being a sure thing: what is being called a tug-of-war over highway expenditures.
Sounds like it's going to be a long night. The headlines are changing literally by the hour!