First jobs bill clears Congress

Construction work on homes in San Marcos, CA (Reuters)

A package of tax breaks and highway spending cleared Congress on Wednesday, the first of what Democrats hope will be several efforts to bring down the 9.7 percent unemployment rate.

The Senate passed the $17.6 billion measure by a vote of 68 to 29 and sent it to President Barack Obama, who will sign it into law on Thursday.

“It is the first of what I hope will be a series of job packages that will help to continue to put people back to work all across America,” Obama said.

With congressional elections looming in November, Democrats hope to show they are committed to reducing an unemployment rate that has remained stubbornly high even as the economy has begun to recover from the worst recession in decades.

None of their efforts is likely to approach the scale of last year’s $863 billion stimulus package, which has created up to 2.1 million jobs but spurred a backlash among voters concerned about record budget deficits.

“We have a long way to go — I’m not sugar coating where we are in this economy — but we are moving forward a step at a time and this is a very good step,” said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

The bill sent to Obama would exempt businesses from paying the 6.2 percent payroll tax on new employees who had previously been out of work. Employers would also get a $1,000 tax credit if those workers were still on the job a year later.

Some economists and liberal lawmakers question that approach, saying it will only go to businesses that planned to expand anyway.

The bill also subsidizes state and local construction bonds and allocates $19.5 billion to shore up a highway-construction program and extend it through the end of the year.

The bill’s costs, other than the highway fund, are offset by a crackdown on offshore tax shelters.

Obama hailed the 11 Republicans who voted with the Democratic majority to pass the bill, though some had opposed it in previous procedural votes.

Both the House and the Senate have passed larger job-creation bills but they have yet to resolve their differences.

The Senate passed a $140 billion package of tax breaks and unemployment aid last week, but House Democratic leaders have indicated they are likely to change it.

That bill closes several tax loopholes to bring down its price tag by roughly $37 billion, but Obama wants to use some of those loopholes to help pay for his massive healthcare overhaul.

The House passed a $154 billion jobs bill in December centered on increased highway spending and state aid, but the Senate has ignored it so far. House lawmakers may try to move those approaches separately or attach them to other bills.

Meanwhile, centrist Democrats want to cut spending or raise taxes elsewhere in the budget to avoid adding further to the budget deficit, which is projected to hit a record $1.5 trillion this fiscal year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

It could take several weeks to resolve the issue, as healthcare is expected to dominate the agenda before the spring break, which begins March 29. The House was scheduled to vote on a short-term extension of unemployment benefits to avoid disruption when they expire in coming weeks.

Separately, the House could vote later this week on a bill that would cut capital-gains taxes on certain small-business stocks and further expand subsidies for state and local construction bonds.

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7 Responses to "First jobs bill clears Congress"

  1. b mcclellan  March 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    3/15/2010… Ten men of which three are journeymen, two are engineers , the remainder self employed construction practitioners graduated from W.I.A. EIS 909 Environmental on this past Monday.

    Each and everyone a Tradesman in his own right, able to start and finish the job at hand, but remaining unemployed bear witness to the criminality that reflects from the top of this economic trampoline to the bottomless pit where the greed of or demise resides.

    Spelunking for a future sans the light of opportunity sucks..

    • Issodhos  March 19, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      Heck, I suspect there are more than enough H1-b slots available to fill any job for which these ten might be qualified. Perhaps if they were to aim a bit lower?
      Yours,
      Issodhos

      • bmclellan  March 20, 2010 at 8:10 am

        The core of this program is Green technology, solar, wind, and geothermal with the emphasis on weatherization and refit diagnostics. Each can move on and become a private certified consultant in both residential and commercial areas but the cost of the equipment alone is as a stone wall barrier that small private companies and individuals cannot absorb.

        So without start up funds small contractors are left to seek employment in the nepotist atmosphere of lending and contract bidding.

        It’s criminal that a man seeking any kind of work just to survive would be turned away from a ten dollar an hour job because they are overqualified, too old, or worse yet seen as a threat to the big boys monopoly, but this is exactly what is happening.
        Funding will not reach where it’s needed most until it is perverted, and squeezed leaving but drops in the proverbial bucket to slake the thirst of the middle class.

  2. AustinRanter (AKA Gregg)  March 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    The majority of employees for most companies are production workers, field or inhouse services employees, or support to production or services rendered. Consequently they aren’t responsible for generating business.

    Tax Breaks and Credits for companies that don’t have sufficient incomes and/or able to sustain sales of services or products might find it difficult to take on personnel that can’t generate revenue.

    I’m sure that I just have old fashion ideas and thinking. The government always knows what’s best for each and every citizen.

  3. b mcclellan  March 18, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    May I take this opportunity to dash oneself upon the rocks of idiocy for my comments concerning Texans. A fool, brash, stupid ,counterproductive, hunt and zealot at times I are.

    Artistry is at stake along with good ole human recognition of frailty to take the high road lest time be given to lessening of pleasure in having to teach the children of ghosts that haunt their past of our making.

    The men I speak of one and all have Green Technology running through their very essence in hopes of employment verily with little hopes coursing in time with who will hire Blue collar man without connection?

    • AustinRanter (AKA Gregg)  March 19, 2010 at 3:45 pm

      Bryan,

      I suspect that native Texans, no matter where they reside, would hate to see anybody, and in particularly you…to dash him or herself upon the rocks. Your contributions to public opinion weighs out to be much more important than an unmeant claptrap, which was probably aimed at specific denizens of Texas. Texas has its share of imported wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

      And, I must admit, on occasion, spewed from Mother Texas’ womb comes an aberration that rises to prominence – and that by their nature-given arrogant deportment, without moral sense or judgment, will debase their own community. When that happens, all of the Texans I know feel sadness, but even more so – genuine shame.

  4. bmclellan  March 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    You are gracious indeed..Thanks..

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