Reid, Baucus unveil new $150B jobs bill
By Ben Pershing
Even as a short-term package of aid to the unemployed remains stalled in the Senate, Democratic leaders unveiled the latest piece of their jobs agenda Monday -- $150 billion worth of extensions to expiring federal programs and tax breaks.
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) objected again Monday to Democrats' efforts to move one-month extensions of unemployment insurance, COBRA health benefits and federal highway funding, insisting that the $10 billion measure be offset with spending cuts or a diversion of unspent funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Bunning's standoff with Democrats has been ongoing since Thursday, and many of the programs in question expired Monday morning. Democrats have been lambasting Bunning for the resulting halt in unemployment benefits and construction on highway projects.
Senate leaders are already looking past that impasse, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) released a new package designed to spur the economy. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure this week.
In a press release Monday, Reid called the bill a "bipartisan proposal that will help businesses thrive again, extend critical assistance to out-of-work Americans, extend tax relief to individuals and businesses and provide assistance to states to ensure that they can continue to provide health care to low-income families."
The measure includes one-year extensions of unemployment insurance and COBRA, making the benefits retroactive to Feb. 28 to compensate those whose benefits have temporarily run out. It would continue the increased level of funding for state Medicaid programs that began with last year's stimulus package, and provide extra help for pension funds that were hit hard by the economic recession.
The bill also carries a package of extensions of tax cuts that are popular with Republicans and K Street, including the research and development credit, incentives for biodiesel and renewable energy, credits for weatherization of homes and the program allowing the deduction of state sales tax payments on federal returns. It includes a "fix" to reverse an automatic cut in payments to doctors under Medicare, and emergency agricultural aid sought by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and others.
Three weeks ago, Reid surprised members of both parties by pulling an $85 billion jobs measure that had been negotiated by Baucus and Finance committee ranking member Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a measure that was likely to earn the backing of several Republican senators.
Reid's allies said at the time that the Nevadan had concerns with the size of the package and its abundance of tax breaks, but the new bill released by Reid and Baucus Monday is much bigger than the package Reid previously nixed, containing nearly all of the same provisions plus additional items.
March 1, 2010; 6:07 PM ET
Categories: Capitol Briefing
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