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Good luck with that pivot

August 5, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With the debt ceiling debate over for now, the Obama Administration is promising a "pivot to jobs." Given that the trillions in cuts in the debt bill are going to cause higher rates of unemployment than what we would have had otherwiset, shifting to job creation makes sense. But the Administration can't create jobs on their own, they need legislation from Congress. Given Congress' recent history with handling jobs bills, don't be surprised if the pivot doesn't result in anything but bitter feelings.

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Another Jobs Bill Killed

June 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

On June 6th, the Senate opened debate on the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, a bill to reauthorize and expand a long-running and consistently successful job-creation agency, the Economic Development Administration. The EDA has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, and this reauthorization bill was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship and passed out of committee without any dissent from Republicans. But after two weeks of debate, the bill was unanimously filibustered by Republicans and has been pulled from the floor.

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Yesterday I wrote about the Senate's latest attempt to actually do something about the unemployment crisis. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] called on the Senate to proceed to the bipartisan Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which reauthorizes the Economic Development Administration to make grants to struggling communities for the purpose of creating and retaining jobs. Yesterday the Senate did something they rarely do these days -- they actually agreed to drop a pending filibuster and move to debate the bill by unanimous consent. That's progress, but here's the problem. The bill has already been loaded up with dozens of unrelated, controversial amendments, and if senators exercise their right to insist on holding votes on them, there is almost no way this non-controversial, bipartisan jobs bill will survive.

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Senate Moves to Economic Development Bill

June 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After renewing the PATRIOT Act and taking some time off, the Senate is ready to try again to do something related to the unemployment crisis we are stuck in. In April they spent weeks working on asmall business jobs bill, only to see it filibustered in the end over a controversial amendment. Now they're going to try the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which would reauthorize and expand the grant-making Economic Development Administration through 2015. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has filed for cloture on the bill, but he's hoping to reach a unanimous consent agreement to proceed to it this afternoon.

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The Senate began debating legislation to reauthorize and extend the the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technical Transfer (STTR), two of the federal government's largest research and development programs, on March 10. More than a month later, the Senate is still not finished with the bill. That's slow even by Senate standards, especially considering that we're in the middle of a jobs crisis and it's about as close to a "jobs bill" as we've seen recently. So what's the problem?

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Slow and Unresponsive

April 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Roll Call has a good piece today on the "glacial" pace of the 112th Congress so far and the fact that it's going to get even slower from here on out. The problem, of course, is that neither the Republicans who control the House or the Democrats who control the Senate are working with an eye towards the other chamber. Particularly in the House, the legislative docket is being used more as a political platform than a means to make laws and solve the problems facing the nation.

"Where are the jobs?" is, of course, the relevant question here. So far this year we've seen votes on divisive program cuts, stopgap bills to patch the budget, extending the government's spying powers, and somecheap fluff, but there's been no honest work on legislation addressing the jobs crisis that could pass both chambers and actually help people. Below is a list of the bills that have been signed into law so far this year. We're facing a deeper and longer lasting jobs crisis than anything we've seen since the Great Depression, but you wouldn't know it looking at the output of the federal legislature:

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Why Congress Doesn't Care About the Unemployed

March 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Nation's Chris Hayes offers a good explanation for why most members of Congress don't seem particularly concerned abut the high rates of unemployment we've been seeing and will probably continue to see for several years:

This disconnect between the jobs crisis in the country and the blithe dismissal thereof in Washington is the most incomprehensible aspect of the political moment. But I think there are two numbers that go a long way toward explaining it.

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The Federal Reserve has lowered the expectations for economic growth and is not expecting any significant change in the unemployment rate for the next couple of years:

Unemployment is set to remain higher for longer than previously thought, according to new projections from the Federal Reserve that would mean more than 10 million Americans remain jobless through the 2012 elections - even as a separate report shows corporate profits reaching their highest levels ever.

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Getting Serious About Unemployment

September 27, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This Wall Street Journal report illustrates why the Democrats are losing the support of the unemployed even though it's the Republicans who have continually stood in the way of extending unemployment benefits:

The Senate will consider a bill this week aimed at discouraging U.S. businesses from outsourcing jobs overseas, a plan that Democrats describe as an effort to fight unemployment but which Republicans deride as a pre-election political maneuver.

Democrats admit they don't have enough votes to defeat a possible attempt by Republicans to block the bill. But they hope that bringing the issue to the Senate floor will underscore their concern about unemployment, now at 9.6%.

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Rep. Berkley Tells 99ers to Keep Waiting

September 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Finally, something like a real update for all the 99ers and unemployed exhaustees out there. Unfortunately, it's not very good. Via Arthur Delaney at HuffPo:

Rep. Shelley Berkley [D, NV] has introduced legislation (H.R. 6091) to help the "99ers" -- people who haven't found work after exhausting all 99 weeks of unemployment benefits available in some states -- but her first priority is preserving those 99 weeks.

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Senate Dems Break Small-Business-Jobs-Bill Filibuster

September 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Since June 29th, Senate Democrats have been stymied by Republicans on a bill (H.R. 5297) that would give small business $12 billion in tax breaks and a $30 billion lending fund in order to encourage new hiring. Today, a couple Republicans gave in, providing the Democrats the votes they need to overcome GOP opposition and move the bill towards final passage.

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The Week Ahead

September 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Time to start paying attention again. It's mid-September, the "August" recess is officially over, and Congress is coming back into session today to get back to taking care of the people's business.

Clearly, there are some enormous issues facing Congress as they return. The unemployment rate is creeping back up (it's at 9.6% and is expected to stay high for some time), long-term unemployment is off the charts, and the expiring 2001 Bush tax cuts need to be dealt with. That's not to mention the 372 bills that this session of Congress has started working on but never finished, which deal with such critical issues as climate change, post-Citizens campaign finance reform, and food safety.

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DADT Ruling Puts Pressure on Congress to Act

September 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A district court judge in California has preempted Congress and ruled "don't ask don't tell" unconstitutional, calling it a facial violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. Even though President Obama favors repealing the policy, which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military, the ruling puts the administration in a bit of a bind.

Normally, the President would appeal any district court decision that strikes a federal statute, and, as Jason Mazzone at Balkinization explains, in this case, the administration has additional legal reasons to appeal -- shoring up the requirments of what constitutes a facial challenge, and showing deference to the military in a time of war. On the other hand, Obama and leaders in the military both want the policy repealed, and they are probably worried that Congress won't act on the repeal while the Democrats still hold enough of a majority to get it passed.

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Obama Stimulus Measure Begins Shaping Up

September 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

First and foremost, the payroll tax holiday, an idea favored by most Republicans and that probably would have been swallowed without too much bitterness by most Democrats, is now, reportedly, off the table. At this point, here's what the new Obama stimulus package is looking like:

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Obama Readying Massive Tax Cut Package?

September 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Remember that in-the-works Obama jobs proposal I wrote about the other day? Given that deficit hawks in the Senate have recently forced the Democrats to pare a $123 billion jobs bill back to a $33 billion unemployment insurance bill (H.R.4213), and that they have been blocking a $30 billion small business jobs bill (H.R. 5297) for over a month, I expected this new proposal to be pretty mild. But according to a report out tonight from Lori Montgomery at the Washington Post, the bill that the White House is preparing to unveil may cost the government as much as $400 billion in lost revenue:

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