House OK’s incentives for hiring unemployed
WASHINGTON - Despite doubts among many lawmakers that it will create many jobs, the House yesterday passed legislation giving companies that hire the jobless a temporary payroll tax break.
The measure passed 217-201 on a mostly party-line vote. The bill also extends federal highway programs through the end of the year.
Some Democrats feel the approximately $35 billion jobs bill is too puny, while others say the tax cut for new hires won’t generate many new jobs. However, the pressure is on to address jobs and deliver a badly needed win for President Obama and a Democratic Party struggling in opinion polls and facing major losses in the upcoming midterm elections. Further jobs measures are promised.
“If that’s the only thing that I can vote on . . . I’ll vote for it, obviously,’’ said Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat. “We’ve got to get something moving. We’ve got to get something done.’’
“It’s really not a jobs bill,’’ said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California. “It’s one small piece.’’ Lee said she instead wants money in the legislation for job training and youth summer jobs.
The House had passed a much larger measure in December that contained almost $50 billion in infrastructure funding, $50 billion in help for cash-starved state governments, and a six-month extension of jobless aid. That bill conspicuously left out the proposals to award tax credits for hiring new workers.
The Senate responded last week with the far smaller measure that the House is reluctantly accepting. The House amended the measure yesterday to conform with so-called pay-as-you-go budget rules that have become an article of faith among moderate Democrats. The rules require future spending increases or tax cuts to be paid for with either cuts to other programs or equivalent tax increases.
The minor tweak means that the notoriously balky Senate would have to act again before Obama could sign the bill into law.
The $35 billion bill - blending $15 billion in tax cuts and subsidies for infrastructure bonds issued by local governments with the $20 billion in transportation money - is far smaller than the massive economic stimulus bill enacted a year ago.
Across the Capitol, the Senate is debating a far more costly measure to clean up a lot of unfinished business from last year. The $100 billion-plus bill would extend unemployment assistance, revive a bevy of expired tax breaks, help states with soaring Medicaid costs, and prevent doctors from having to absorb big cuts in Medicare payments.
The popular initiatives are traditionally extended on a bipartisan basis for brief periods of time, which hides their long-term costs.