Having pushed aside energy/oil spill legislation until the lame-duck session, the weeks between when Congress reconvenes from the August recess on September 13 and before they adjourn for election season in October will be focused on one thing -- saving the U.S. economy from slipping deeper into recession. There's a small business jobs bill on tap (H.R. 5297), a vague plan to do something with the expiring Bush tax cuts, and now, according to the Wall Street Journal, a new jobs package from the Obama Administration.Read Full Article
Economist Susan Woodward considers August to be, typically, "a month of unambiguous employment growth." But according to a report released today that she helped to put together with Intuit Inc., small businesses in August, though still hiring, are adding new employees at the slowest rate since January. According to the report, the number of jobs created in August is only one-third of how many were created in April.
Why the downturn? One possibility is that small business owners have put hiring and expansion on hold while they wait for the Senate to break a Republican filibuster and pass the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010.Read Full Article
The House came back from their August recess today to vote on the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, which the Senate passed last Thursday, after the House had already adjourned. It gives states $26.1 billion to help pay for Medicaid and teachers' salaries. Since both chambers passed the exact same version of the bill, it was immediately enrolled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] and sent directly to Obama, who has already signed it into law.
The vote was a near-party-line 247-161. Two Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the bill with the Democrats -- Rep. Anh Cao [R, LA-2] and Rep. Michael Castle [R, DE-0]. Three Democrats, all members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, voted with Republicans against the bill -- Rep. Bobby Bright [D, AL-2], Rep. Jim Cooper [D, TN-5] and Rep. Gene Taylor [D, MS-4]. Twenty-five congressmen didn't take the time out of the recess to return to D.C. and vote on the bill, including 7 Democrats and 18 Republicans.Read Full Article
Don't look now, but legislation is actually moving in the Senate. Congress Daily ($):
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The Senate today sent the House a $26 billion state aid package after defeating two amendments from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., seeking to permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.
The package, which passed 61-39, would provide $16.1 billion to extend for six months increased Medicaid funding for states, known as FMAP. The measure also provides $10 billion for a fund Democrats say will avert 138,000 teacher layoffs. It passed with the support of two Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
On Friday I wrote about a vote in the Senate on an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act that sets up the bill for a successful vote on final passage next week. Senate Republicans have been opposing a provision in the bill to create a $30 billion small business lending fund because, they say, it's too similar to the TARP big-bank bailout program that was pushed through Congress by the Bush Administration in 2008. But on Thursday evening, Senate Democrats, with the help of a couple wayward Republicans, were able to secure passage of an amendment to keep the small-business fund in the bill.
So, naturally, I wanted to compare Thursday's vote on the small business lending fund with the 2008 vote on TARP itself. As it turns out, a total of 22 senators voted both in favor of the TARP program, which leant $700 billion to the big banks to do pretty much whatever they want, and agains the small business lending fund, which would lend $30 billion to small banks to loan to small businesses for the purposes of creating jobs. Here's the list:Read Full Article
After passing the unemployment relief bill, the Senate this week finally made some progress on what will probably be the final job-creation measure to be considered this year -- the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010.Read Full Article
As you all probably know by now, President Obama has officially signed the unemployment extension bill into law, sending it the state unemployment offices for them to begin implementing. The bill extends unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been jobless for more than 6 months until November 30th. It will also pay benefits back retroactively for the more than 2.5 million people who have had their payments cut off since Congress let extended unemployment benefits expire on June 2nd.Read Full Article
If I had to pick the top three factors in U.S. politics right now I would say the unemployment situation, concern about the deficit, and distrust of the financial industry. Remarkably, Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-14] (pictured) has introduced a bill this session that seems to fall on the popular side of all three of these issues. It would be deficit neutral, dramatically reduce unemployment, and levy a new tax on the riskiest Wall Street transactions. The bill is called the 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act. Here's how it would work.Read Full Article
The 99ers are the true victims of the jobless recovery. Yes, millions of people who have been out of work for months are struggling right now because Congress has let the extended benefits period expire, but a couple weeks from now that will be extended and those people will see their benefit payments return, including retroactive reimbursements for any payments that were put on hold. If they can find a job before the 99-weeks-max benefit period expires under the currently-pending extension (H.R. 5618) on November 30, 2010, in a sense, the system will have worked at helping them weather this crisis. But for those who are not able to find a job by then, they will join the ranks of the 99ers who, so far, have seen nothing but neglect from the people in charge of U.S. economic policy.Read Full Article
As many of you out there are painfully aware, congressional Democrats have been been struggling for weeks to pass an extension of unemployment insurance payments for the millions of people who have lost their jobs in the economic crisis. Republicans have blocked the UI bills repeatedly in the Senate over the past month and did so again today in the House. But between their failing votes on extending the UI lifeline, the Democrats have been having more success with a bill that is designed to actually stimulate the jobs market. The "State Small Business and Credit Initiative Act of 2010" (H.R. 5297) passed the House on June 17 by a vote of 413-0. Today, the Senate voted to break a Republican filibuster of the bill by a vote of 66-33. The House Majority Whip provides this summary of the bill:Read Full Article
Remember that "controversial" procedure tactic known as budget reconciliation Senate Democrats used to break a Republican filibuster and pass an amendment to the health care reform bill? Well, the Democrats are setting themselves up to use budget reconciliation again next year. This time it won't be for helping people get health care, but for helping people get jobs. The Hill reports:Read Full Article
Because Congress failed to pass an extension before taking off for April recess, thousand of unemployed Americans will have their only source of income, unemployment insurance benefits, cut off starting today. That's a big deal when 15 million Americans are out of work and Tim Geithner is saying things like, "[the unemployment rate] is going to stay unacceptably high for a very long time."Read Full Article
The health care reform process continues in the background, but Congress will also be voting on other consequential legislation this week. The House is scheduled to debate and vote on winding down the war in Afghanistan and impeaching a New Orleans judge on corruption charges. The Senate, meanwhile, will continue working on jobs legislation.Read Full Article
While health care reform moves to the back rooms for now, Congress is hoping to take floor action on a number of jobs-related bills this week including a temporary extension for unemployment benefits (H.R.4691) that was single-handedly blocked by Sen. Jim Bunning [R, KY].Read Full Article