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Another Jobs Bill Bogged Down By Superfluous Amendments

June 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

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.

Case in point. Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] has already reintroduced her amendment that caused the last jobs bill in the Senate to die. Her “Freedom from Restrictive Excessive Executive Demands and Onerous Mandates Act” would force regulators to conductcomplex cost-benefit analyses of their proposed rules’ direct and indirect impact on small businesses, set up a new judicial review process for small businesses to challenge regulations, and require agencies to periodically review existing rules and sunset any that do not pass a strict examination. Reid and many Democrats see this as nothing more an attempt to help big business dodge regulations that may cut into their profits, and they don’t want to give it a vote of fear it may be approved. The impasse over the amendment caused Reid to pull the entire previous jobs bill from the floor. If Snowe insists again on bringing the amendment to a vote, there’s no reason to believe things will go down any differently.

But it’s not just Snowe’s amendment that is the problem. The bill already has 27 amendments submitted, and they touch on just about every hot-button issue out there. Here’s a non-comprehenseive overview of what else has been proposed so far:

  • Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT]— delay Fed rules that limit how much banks can charge retailers for debit transactions.
  • Sen. Jerry Moran [R, KS] — weaken Consumer Finance Protection Bureau by giving bank regulators veto power over proposed rules.
  • Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX] — exempt sand dune lizard from Endangered Species Act.
  • Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC] — permanent estate tax repeal.
  • DeMint — terminate Global Climate Change Relief Fund.
  • Sen. Kay Hutchison [R, TX] — extension of offshore oil drilling leases.
  • Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D, MD]— prohibit mortgage lenders from charging interest on on-time principal payments.
  • Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] — exempt financial institutions from antitrust laws and allow them to collude for purpose of setting fees.
  • Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] — no federal funds for construction of ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities.
  • Paul — increase the national debt limit by $2 trillion.
  • Paul — allow states to opt-out of the new health care reform law.

If these senators want, they can turn the debate over this bipartisan jobs bill into a series of more contentious debates on the debt ceiling, offshore oil drilling, climate change, taxes, and more. Some of this stuff may be able to pass with hobbled-together coalitions, but a lot of it would cause senators who support the underlying bill to back away from it. This is what Reid gets for being a “gentleman” and agreeing not to block senators from submitting amendments. It’s nice that senators get to hold votes on their pet causes, but it’s too bad it has to happen in a way that undermines progress on the thing Americans are most concerned about right now and that lawmakers from both parties are supposedly concerned with, job creation.

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