Progress in the SenateNovember 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw
While the House is out on recess, the Senate is doing something quite remarkable this week — they’re voting on a bipartisan basis to advance bits and pieces of President Obama’s jobs bill. But while this is certainly progress and a net positive, the incredibly limited scope of what they’re advancing, compared with the enormity of the crisis facing the economy, also underscores just how dysfunctional Congress is.
The bill that the Senate voted last night, 94-1, to begin debating, would repeal a rule that has yet to take effect requiring the government to withhold 3% of payments to federal contractors as a downpayment on the tax liabilities. The idea, according to Obama, is to eliminate “burdensome withholding requirements that keep capital out of the hands of job creators.” Since repealing that rule will make it easier for contractors to dodge taxes, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it will decrease projected revenues by $11 billion over 10 years. To make up the difference the bill would reduce the number of people who will be eligible for Medicaid benefits under the new health care law.
The second part of the bill, which is expected to be approved as an amendment by a bipartisan vote, is an expansion of tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans. This is great in that it will help veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan find jobs, but it won’t help increase hiring in general and the stimulative effect of giving these tax credits to businesses will be negligible.
And that’s it — the Senate has effectively whittled Obama’s sweeping jobs bill down to an extension of the status quo for contractor withholdings, cuts to Medicaid benefits, and tax credits for hiring veterans.
Of course, this fits right in with the other “jobs” accomplishments of the 112th Congress so far, namely the patent reform bill and the three new free trade deals. They’re all definitely good for business’ bottom lines, and they all may create a few jobs on the side. In the cases of the free trade bill and the patent bills, they may destroy a good amount of jobs too, but that’s besides the point. This is bipartisanship in the 112th Congress, folks. At least this time they’re helping veterans.