By Walter Alarkon - 02/26/10 02:22 AM EST
Congressional Black Caucus members are dismissing a $15 billion jobs bill as inadequate, forcing House leaders to rethink their plan to vote on the measure Friday.
Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) told Democratic leaders Thursday that they didn't support a measure they saw more as a "tax bill" than a bill that will create jobs.
CBC members join House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and other infrastructure advocates in withholding their support for the measure, which passed with 70 votes in the Senate on Wednesday and which House leaders wanted to pass before the weekend.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that Oberstar and the CBC have "questions" over the bill.
"So I'm going to be talking to a number of people on it and will make a determination on it tomorrow," Hoyer told reporters.
Most of the bill -- $13 billion -- goes toward a tax credit for small businesses who hire new workers or increase employee wages. The remaining funds in the measure go toward the extension of the highway trust fund for transportation projects, a tax break allowing companies to write off equipment losses and low-cost bonds for state and local government infrastructure projects.
Oberstar has said that dozens of House Democrats oppose the way the bill steers a disproportionate amount of money for transportation projects toward four states instead of allowing the funding to be doled out based on projects' merits.
CBC leaders met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her office off the House floor Thursday. The group is pushing for a larger bill that will have more immediate impact.
CBC members want a comprehensive measure that includes government spending on infrastructure projects and programs that will directly help areas with high unemployment and poverty rates, said CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
"In no way does $15 billion, a tax-cut bill, create jobs for the chronically unemployed," CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee told reporters.
Lee said she didn't expect the bill to come to the floor Friday.
"I don't think you'll see a lot of CBC votes" for the bill, Lee said.
The unemployment rate for blacks is 16.7 percent, far higher than the 9.7 percent national rate.
The NAACP and other black leaders met with President Barack Obama earlier this month to urge government to do more to create jobs in urban areas. They said after the meeting they would also press lawmakers to pass a more comprehensive measure that includes funding for New Deal-style public and nonprofit programs that directly hire workers.