Senate Dems Ax Bipartisan Jobs Bill

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revised jobs billSenate Democrats scrapped a bipartisan jobs
bill in favor of one they say is leaner and focused solely on putting
Americans back to work, and they’re all but daring Republicans to vote
against it.

The new, stripped-down proposal followed criticism that the bipartisan version wouldn’t create many jobs.

The
switch brought sharp accusations of reneging from Republicans who
thought they had a deal, jeopardizing a brief attempt at bipartisan
lawmaking.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s latest bill
focuses on several popular provisions aimed at boosting job creation,
including a new tax break negotiated with Republicans for companies
that hire unemployed workers and for small businesses that purchase new
equipment. It also would renew highway programs and help states and
local governments finance large infrastructure projects.

Reid,
D-Nev., put forward the pared-back plan after Senate Democrats balked
at a broader bill stuffed with unrelated provisions sought by lobbyists
for business groups and doctors. The surprise blew apart an agreement
with key Republicans like Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who worked with
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., for weeks to produce a
bill containing the extra provisions.

The original bill had won support from across the political spectrum, from President Barack?Obama
as well as conservative Republicans in the Senate, offering the promise
of a rare bipartisan package in a Congress that has been gripped by
partisan fights. To get that support, however, the package had morphed
into a 361-page grab bag of provisions that included extending benefits
to the unemployed and tax breaks for businesses.

Now, the bipartisan agreement is off.

“Our
side isn’t sure that the Republicans are real interested in developing
good policy and to move forward together,” said Sen. Thomas Carper,
D-Del. “Instead, they are more inclined to play rope-a-dope again. My
own view is, let’s test them.”

Said Reid: “Republicans are going to have to make a choice. I don’t know in logic what they could say to oppose this.”

Reid
officially put the measure before the Senate on Thursday evening,
setting up a key test vote when the chamber returns the week of Feb.
22. He’ll need at least one GOP vote to prevail in a filibuster
challenge.

Republicans said they were blind-sided by Reid’s about-face.

Grassley
spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said in an e-mail that Reid “pulled the rug out
from work to build broad-based support for tax relief and other efforts
to help the private sector recover from the economic crisis.”

The
bigger bill got a decidedly mixed reception at a luncheon meeting of
Democrats, many of whom were uncomfortable with supporting a bill
containing so many provisions unrelated to creating jobs, including
loans for chicken producers and aid to catfish farmers.

The
provisions also included a $31 billion package of tax breaks for
individuals and businesses, an extension of several parts of the USA
Patriot Act and higher payments for doctors facing Medicare payment
cuts.

The surprise move appears to insulate Democrats from
criticism that greeted the earlier, lobbyist-backed legislation first
leaked on Tuesday and officially unveiled by Baucus and Grassley ? to
praise from the White House ? only hours before Reid’s announcement.

The
centerpiece of Reid’s new bill is a $13 billion payroll tax credit for
companies that hire unemployed workers. The idea, by Sens. Chuck
Schumer, D-N.Y., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would exempt businesses
hiring unemployed workers in 2010 from the 6.2 percent Social Security
payroll tax for those hires.

It also would provide an additional
$1,000 tax credit for workers retained for a full year and deposit an
additional $20 billion into the federal highway trust fund ? money that
would have to be borrowed. There’s also $2 billion to subsidize bond
issues by state and local governments for large infrastructure projects

But
Republicans are irate at the tactics and said Reid had gone back on a
deal reached with some of the Senate’s heaviest hitters, including
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

SOURCE: The Associated Press (c) 2010