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99ers and the American Jobs Act

September 15, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American Jobs Act doesn't propose an extension for 99ers, the millions of people who have been out of work so long that they are no longer eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. But it does include several provisions that are designed to help them in other ways.

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Several of the campaigns involved in last night's Republican debate used Twitter as a back channel to supplement their candidates' appearances. The Bachmann and Gingrich campaigns used it to retweet people praising their performances and declaring them the debate winners. The Santorum and Cain campaigns used it to distill key quotes and sum up their answers. But The Ron Paul campaign did it best. They used the real-time nature of Twitter to back up several of his answers with supplementary links to primary source materials around the web.

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More Senate Squabble, Fewer Jobs

September 13, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Still waiting for that big pivot when everyone in Congress starts acting like they actually care that the unemployment and poverty rates are are record high levels. In the meantime…

Republicans blocked an effort Monday by Senate Democrats to quickly pass a $7 billion aid package for victims of recent natural disasters like Hurricane Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest and the South and floods along the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers.

On a 53-33 vote, the Senate rejected an attempt by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring up a bill that Democrats had hoped to use to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency's depleted disaster fund. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the measure.

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The gun-rights lobby is about to score a big victory in Congress. Tomorrow, for the first time ever, a congressional committee will take up the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill that has been a major priority for the National Rifle Association for more than a decade. The bill would require all states that allow some form of concealed carry to honor the concealed-carry licenses of other states. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 10 am. The hearing will pave the way for the bill to receive a committee mark-up and consideration before the full House later this session.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

September 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

No jobs bills on the calendar yet. But don't worry, they're going pivot soon. For now, Congress is sticking to pretty much what they've been doing all along. In the House they'll be treading water with suspensions bills, passing anti-union legislation that's going to die on the Senate. Stuff like that. In the Senate they'll start out by voting on a motion to overcome Republican opposition to a bill to apply sanctions to the military regime in Burma. That bill will probably pass unanimously, but the Republican minority is going to use the Senate rules to make sure it takes up as much of the Democratic majority's time as possible, because, you know, they don't want them to have time for other stuff that might be more popular, like job creation.

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Patent Reform in Name Only

September 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Congress has a funny way of handling things sometimes. There's a jobs crisis? I know, lets pass a "jobs bill." The health care system sucks? How about a new "healthcare reform bill?" The financial sector is too big and interconnected? I know, let's pass a "financial reform bill." It's as if passing bills is more important to them than solving the problems.

Such is the case with the patent reform bill that the Senate passed last week and is now awaiting Obama's signature. Obviously, the patent system is totally broken. It's a system that was established under the Constitution to get inventors to share their ideas so that others could build on them and innovate. But it has turned into a massive scam, supporting shadow companies that don't make anything but hoard the rights to ideas so they can sue companies that do make things. These companies are commonly referred to as "patent trolls," and they are bad for innovation and bad for jobs. Yet the patent reform bill that is about to be passed into law doesn't do anything about them.

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Will the Unemployed Be Left Behind?

September 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For the past few years on OpenCongress, the hottest issue by far has been unemployment, specifically, keeping extended unemployment insurance benefits from lapsing while the jobless rate remains high. The current extended unemployment benefits program, which lasts up to 99 weeks in states with unemployment rates above 8.5%, has been reauthorized five times and its current authorization is scheduled to expire at the end of December. President Obama is expected to propose another reauthorization in his big jobs speech tonight, but it's not clear that Congress is going to be willing to extend them once again.

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So This is What it Takes to Get Congress To Act

September 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The patent-system-reforming "America Invents Act" looks set to sail through the Senate and be signed into law in a matter of days. Last night, the Senate voted 93-5to move it forward towards a final vote on passage, with members on both sides of the aisle hailing it as a bipartisan jobs measure. Sen. Jon Kyl [R, AZ], for example, said on the Senate floor yesterday that the bill would create "a powerful incentive for manufacturers to build factories and create jobs in this country," and Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] said it would "unlock the job-creating potential of each patent."

Say what? Since when do Democrats and Republicans in the 112th Congress agree on a jobs bill? They've already failed to move forward with several jobs measures this year by getting caught up on unrelated, partisan issues, so what's so special about the patent bill that everyone's suddenly playing nice? I don't really know the answer to that for sure, but what I do know is that the other jobs bills that died this year did not have any corporate backing. But this one, on the other hand…

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Previewing the Obama Jobs Plan

September 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Various news outlets are out this morning with a top-line number for the stimulus measure that Obama will be proposing before a jointy session of Congress tomorrow night -- $300 billion. According to the reports, most of that money would be used for extending current measures that are scheduled to expire soon. Just $100 billion or so would be spent on new stimulus measures, which is clearly not enough of an investment to create the levl of demand for goods and services that's needed to get businesses hiring. Let's take a look at the specifics.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

September 6, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Can Washington do anything to help create jobs? The August recess is finally over and it's time for Congress to take up their promised "pivot to jobs." If there is a will in Washington to put aside the partisanship and pass legislation to get the hiring cycle churning again, they'll make some progress this work period. But don't hold your breath -- despite the terrible August jobs numbers, all signs still point to gridlock.

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Keeping Up With Zero

September 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The August jobs report is out -- the first since the debt deal passed and the S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating -- and the key number to the whole thing is zero. Zero jobs were created in August. The private sector produced a measly 17,000 jobs, but those gains were entirely erased by the 17,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector due to state and local government budget cuts. Hours worked were down, wages were down, and the unemployment rate for blacks jumped by nearly a full percentage point to 16.7% nationally. There's basically nothing good in the report to point to.

When Congress comes back next week, the focus is going to be on competing jobs bills from the Republican House and the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, it looks like none of them are going to pass. Both sides have decided that their best move is to try to use the gridlock to their advantage politically. They're not willing to do for the jobless what they did for the banks with TARP -- throw the political concerns aside and do what it takes to save them. But it's not just jobs bills that Congress will be fighting over when they come back. They also have some important authorization bills up for renewal that have so far been stymied over partisan battles on union-organizing rules and other issues. If they're not going to pass a job-creation measure they should at least find a way to pass these bills so they can prevent millions of of private and publica jobs from being lost.

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New Jobs for America

September 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Over the next few weeks, as Congress returns and the discussion shifts to unemployment, I'll be highlighting bills in Congress that have already been introduced to create jobs and help those who have been hurt by the crisis. Rather than focusing on the proposals that have been vaulted into the media spotlight by party leaders, I'll be looking mainly at bills that represent alternative ideas that have been mostly ignored. Today, I'll start with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee's [D, TX] New Jobs for America Act of 2011, which would create a jobs training program for the unemployed focused on helping people update their skills for emerging industries. 

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