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A Closer Look At The Senate's Jobs Plan

January 27, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The omnipresent refrain in Washington for the past few months has been “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Possibly terrified of the wrath of the unemployed voter, Senate Democrats are now making progress in crafting a jobs bill.

The Senate’s $80 billion jobs bill will primarily focus on tax credits to encourage businesses to hire more people this year. Dow Jones Newswires has more on the specifics of the tax credit plan authored by Sen. Robert Casey [D, PA], Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] and Sen. Russ Feingold [D, WI]:

The plan under discussion would provide a tax credit for between 10%-20% of increased payroll— to encompass both hiring of new workers and increasing part-time workers to full-time status.

That credit will be taken against the Social Security and Medicare taxes that companies remit quarterly to the federal government.

This tax credit idea was first proposed by then-candidate Obama during the 2008 campaign. Since then, several lawmakers have proposed their own versions.

Also included in the plan is money to help states prevent layoffs for public employees and billions for infrastructure and clean energy projects.

Last December, the House passed a $154 billion jobs bill (H.R.2847) which, like the Senate bill, would give money to state and local governments and pump billions into infrastructure projects. Two major items included in the House bill that are not being considered by the Senate are a six-month unemployment insurance benefit extension and a 15-month COBRA health care subsidy extension.

Unused TARP funds will cover $75 billion of House bill’s price tag. Sen. Byron Dorgan [D, ND] and Sen. Dick Durbin [D, IL] are considering a similar funding mechanism for the Senate bill. However, this idea has become a major point of contention among Senate Democrats.

Budget hawk and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND] has spoken out against the idea telling Politico, “I’m not a big fan of [using TARP money]. I would prefer it be done, be paid for, in another way.”

Using TARP funds may also eliminate the possibility of a bipartisan bill as professional moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] has also said she couldn’t support it. Of course, getting the votes needed in the Senate was already a tough prospect regardless of whether those votes had a “D” or “R” next to it. The House jobs bill barely squeaked by in a 217-212 vote. Like always, 60 votes will be needed in the Senate and Scott Brown’s recent victory in Massachusetts further complicates the numbers for the Democrats.

Though wrangling those votes in the Senate will be tricky and President Obama’s State of the Union address may change the debate, Senate Democrats hope to introduce their jobs bill relatively soon.

“Within the next two to three weeks would be my hope,” said Sen. Dorgan. “But the floor of the Senate is a rather unpredictable place these days.”

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