Senate jobs bill clears key hurdle
Updated 5:15 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
The Senate's latest jobs bill cleared a key procedural hurdle Tuesday, with the chamber voting to limit debate on a $150 billion package of tax extensions and aid for the unemployed.
Eight Republicans joined 58 Democrats to advance the bill, which now faces a vote on final passage Wednesday. The House's plans to deal with the measure remain unclear.
The bill includes one-year extensions of unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits, as well as extra money to help both states pay for Medicaid and private pension funds that have taken a big hit during the economic recession.
The measure also carries a "fix" to prevent a cut in payments to doctors who serve Medicare patients, as well as a $30 billion package of extensions of expiring tax breaks. And the bill includes more than $1 billion worth of emergency agricultural aid being sought by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who faces a tough reelection race.
The bill is the latest installment in a series of bills planned by Democrats to boost employment -- and to remind voters that they remain focused on the economy, even as the health-care debate sucks up attention.
"This week's bill helps those who have been hit the hardest," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday. "Among other things, we're going to extend unemployment benefits to those looking for work, cut taxes for families and businesses, and protect Medicaid so low-income families can afford health care."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs praised the bill in a statement, calling the Senate vote "one more step forward as we fight to get the American people back to work and support families that have been the hardest hit by the economic crisis."
While several Republicans voted for the bill, the measure also had its critics -- mainly because Democrats designated more than two-thirds of the bill as "emergency spending" and so did not seek to offset the costs with corresponding spending cuts or tax increases.
Led by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), fiscal hawks were able to defeat Tuesday morning one amendment to the bill that would have spent more than $2 billion to help states pay for summer jobs and other programs for the needy.
Later this week, the Senate is expected to vote one more time on a separate $15 billion jobs measure that it has already approved once. The House tweaked that bill before passing it last week.
March 9, 2010; 3:49 PM ET
Categories: Capitol Briefing
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