Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Senate Sausage

Apparently the "silly season," also known as "campaign time," has hit. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who's running for re-election himself, has discovered that time is running out on the 111th Congress and very little has been accomplished that will favorably affect the vast majority of voters. Health care reform is currently on the back burner, awaiting the president's summit meeting, so Sen. Reid turned to the jobs bill we've been waiting for and he pulled out a victory of sorts.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Senate Democrats leaped a key hurdle toward passing a scaled-down jobs bill Monday, gaining support from several Republicans -- including the newest GOP senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

That's right! Sen. Reid cobbled together a coalition of sorts to cut off a filibuster on the first of what the Majority Leader said will be a series of bills to address the joblessness issue. Of course, it probably helped that some Republicans are also facing re-election during a period when voters of all stripes have made it clear how disgusted they are with the Congress as a whole, and the Senate in particular. Here's the breakdown, one with a little twist at the end:

Monday's vote was widely viewed as a test of whether the Senate could pass any significant legislation after Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority with Brown's election. The chamber has been gridlocked by party-line squabbling for the better part of a year, with virtually every bill requiring a 60-vote supermajority.

In addition to Brown, Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, Missouri's Christopher S. Bond and Ohio's George V. Voinovich voted to cut off debate on the jobs legislation, which is likely to pass when it comes to a vote later this week. ...

Democrats needed two GOP votes to ward off a filibuster because Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is undergoing treatment for stomach cancer. They ended up with five, but lost one of their own: Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska sided with the GOP.
[Emphasis added]

The bill itself is thin soup, and by itself will probably accomplish very little in terms of any kind of mass hiring. It is, however, a start. If Sen. Reid fulfills his promise of more such bills in incremental fashion, we might actually see something decent come out of this Congress before November.

Here's a brief summary of the bill:

Along with a Social Security tax break to encourage businesses to hire workers, the $15-billion package would replenish the depleted Highway Trust Fund, which uses gasoline taxes to repair interstate roads; expand the Build America Bonds program, which helps state and local governments fund infrastructure projects; and allow small businesses to write off large equipment purchases immediately rather than depreciating them over several years.

It's nowhere near the more comprehensive bill passed by the House, but it's enough to show some willingness to get something done and should pass quickly. Then Sen. Reid will introduce the next bill, one that adds a little substance to the broth. Why this couldn't happen earlier as part of the original stimulus package is still a mystery. I guess the threat of elections have more consequences than actual elections.

We'll see.

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5 Comments:

Blogger PurpleGirl said...

No unemployment benefit extension in this Senate version... thanks for nothing Harry. I'd wish that he becomes unemployed this fall but he'd only find a job real fast and not experience what it's like to be out of work with no money coming in.

8:30 AM  
Blogger PurpleGirl said...

Extended benefits end February 28 btw, the House version extends them to May 31. Even if they vote on an extension bill next week, it means there is a gap and you don't get retroactive money. Every week without coverage means a week without money. Doing that to people who had low pay jobs and don't get a maximum benefit is cruel and mean. They fall even further behind.

8:33 AM  
Blogger the bewilderness said...

What's the difference between a jobs bill and a tax cut bill?
Nothing.

10:47 AM  
Blogger PurpleGirl said...

the bewilderness -- you got that right. LOL. (sort of)

1:53 PM  
Blogger James said...

its pretty amazing that 32 senators still wanted to filibuster the vastly reduced bill

2:10 PM  

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