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With 5 GOP Votes, the Senate Votes to Take Up a Jobs Bill

February 22, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Has a new day dawned in the Senate? On Monday night, five Republicans helped to hand Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] a big and much-needed victory by joining with Democrats on defeating a Republican filibuster of his $15 billion jobs bill. The bipartisan 62-30 vote came even after Reid scaled the bill back last week by removing some unrelated tax cuts, which were popular with Republicans, and an unemployment insurance extension, which is popular with everyone in Congress.

The five Republicans joining with Reid on the jobs bill were Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH], Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME], Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], Sen. Kit Bond [R, MO] and newly-seated Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]. One Democrat voted “no”: Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE].

After the vote, Reid said he hoped “this is the beginning of a new day here in the Senate.” Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] said that “today, jobs triumphed over politics.” And Scott Brown struck a similarly positive tone in a statement after the vote: “I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families," […] “This Senate jobs bill is not perfect. I wish the tax cuts were deeper and broader, but I voted for it because it contains measures that will help put people back to work.”

Indeed, the vote represented the first coming together at all of the Senate since well before the Senate began their bitter and patrician health care reform last November. But I would caution against any proclamations of a new bipartisan spirit. Right now, both parties know that job creation is the winning issue with voters. Help to get unemployment down below 9% and you’ll be in a good position for talking with voters back home. With something like health care reform, on the other hand, the bill may help bring down costs and it may help to fix the federal budget deficit, but voters won’t feel those effects for years to come. With the jobs bill, however, if they are unemployed or a small business owner, they might start feeling the effects of the jobs bill right away.

Reid’s jobs bill has four basic elements:

1) Payroll tax exemption for new hires —Exempts social security payroll taxes immediately for every worker hired in 2010 that has been unemployed for at least 60 days.

2) Tax write-offs — Allows small businesses to write off equipment purchases as tax-free business expenses rather than depreciating them over time.

3) “Build America Bonds” — Extends a provision from the stimulus that lets state and local governments borrow from the federal government at lower costs to finance infrastructure projects and, thus, create jobs.

4) Highway Trust Fund Extension — Replenishes and reauthorizes the highway trust fund, which uses gas taxes to help state and local governments pay for road repair projects.

The bill currently exists in the form of a substitute amendment, S. Amdt. 3310 to H.R. 2847, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The final vote will likely take place on Wednesday. No amendments will be considered.

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