Senate Democrats have released details of their third attempt to get Republicans on board for two major pieces of the Obama jobs bill -- extending the payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment insurance for another year, . According to a press release from Sen. Robert Casey [D, PA], the new proposal would reduce the overall cost of the plan by about $80 billion by letting payroll tax holiday expire for employers' contributions. Workers would still get a 50 percent reduction in the amount of payroll taxes they would have to pay normally.Read Full Article
While the House is out on recess, the Senate is doing something quite remarkable this week -- they're voting on a bipartisan basis to advance bits and pieces of President Obama's jobs bill. But while this is certainly progress and a net positive, the incredibly limited scope of what they're advancing, compared with the enormity of the crisis facing the economy, also underscores just how dysfunctional Congress is.Read Full Article
Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has selected the next piece of Obama's jobs bill for Republicans and conservative Democrats to filibuster.Read Full Article
Following up on last week's symbolic vote on Obama's jobs bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has decided on the next step. He's whittling the $447 billion down to a single, fully-offset $35 billion spending measure that would provide state and local aid to public employees facing layoffs. He's planning to bring it up for a vote in the Senate later this week.Read Full Article
The House is taking a break from working on jobs, the economy, and other dull stuff like that so they can vote on an important issue that the people actually care about -- abortion. The Repubilcan leadership has scheduled a vote this afternoon on the "Protect Life Act," which would allow hospitals to deny abortion services even if it means the mother will die. Finally! HuffPo:
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The House is scheduled to vote this week on a new bill that would allow federally-funded hospitals that oppose abortions to refuse to perform the procedure, even in cases where a woman would die without it.
Under current law, every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid money is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If a hospital is unable to provide what the patient needs -- including a life-saving abortion -- it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.
The AP has a helpful post up explaining the details of the bill to provide aid to workers who get their jobs shipped overseas that Congress thought would be wise to pass before approving these new free trade deals. They're comparing it to an expansion of the measures that were enacted in 2009 as part of the stimulus bill and expired in February.Read Full Article
President Obama didn't send the American Jobs Act of 2011 to Congress because he thought it would pass and help boost the economy. He knew it would fail, but he wanted to use its failure to back up a talking point for his re-election. The Republicans are blocking the Democrats from passing their job-creation plan, the argument would go. Last night, by a vote of 50-49, Obama got his talking point.Read Full Article
At this point there are basically two conceivable ways for Obama and the congressional Democrats to get their jobs bill, the American Jobs Act, through Congress this year. They could cut it down dramatically to things that could potentially get bipartisan support, like the payroll tax holiday and the unpaid job training program for the unemployed, or they could go hardball and threaten to withhold appropriations and shut down the government. This morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] (pictured) announced what he intends to do. He's going with none of the above, choosing the purely political option instead.Read Full Article
The Senate is currently making progress on bipartisan legislation designed to shrink the U.S. trade deficit with China and restore up to 2.8 million domestic manufacturing positions. Yesterday, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the China trade bill, a.k.a. the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, and they're expected to pass it by the end of the week. But that will be the end of the line for the bill.Read Full Article
When Congress comes back next week, they're not going to move directly to the Obama jobs bill. Instead, they're going to take up a different measure that could potentially lead to U.S. job creation and is more likely to pass -- the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011.
The bill is designed to give the Administration authority to take corrective action against artificially undervalued foreign currencies, particularly the Chinese renminbi. It is widely believed that the fair market value of the renminbi is being supressed by the Chinese government in order to give them an advantage in foreign trade. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Import, the U.S. trade deficit with China has killed 2.8 million American jobs since 2001. It's likely that many of those job positions, which were in manufacturing, could be recreated if the renminbi were valued more fairly.Read Full Article
Free-trade deals generally help some American companies increase their exports and create jobs. However, history shows that they tend to do far more to increase imports, which may help consumers access cheaper goods and manufacturers access cheaper parts, but has a net negative impact on jobs in the U.S. In the first decade that NAFTA was in effect, for example, nearly 900,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost due to accelerated trade imbalances with Mexico and Canada, our then-new free-trade partners.
But while workers tend to lose out in the deals, big American companies benefit by gaining access to new markets of cheap labor overseas. That's why the Chamber of Congress and dozens of major U.S. corporations like Wal-Mart, Microsoft and GE have been pushing Congress for years to finalize the free-trade deals with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama that were drafted under the Bush Administration. In recent months, the Obama Administration has begun championing the deals, calling on Congress repeatedly to pass them as a way to boost employment.Read Full Article
Yet another sign that Congress isn't taking the jobs crisis seriously, this time from the Senate Democratic Whip, Dick Durbin [D, IL], on CNN:
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CROWLEY: When is his jobs bill getting on the Senate floor? [...]
DURBIN: I think that's more realistic it would be next month.
CROWLEY: Next month. OK.
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.Read Full Article
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…
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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.
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.Read Full Article