By Walter Alarkon and Lauren Victoria Burke - 03/03/10 10:59 PM EST
House Democrats are nearing a deal with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that could allow a vote on the Senate jobs bill Thursday, according to senior members.
Democratic leaders wanted to quickly pass the $15 billion Senate measure, which includes $13 billion for a tax credit for small businesses who hire new workers. President Barack Obama had called on Congress to send him job-creation legislation "without delay."
To address CBC concerns, House leaders are considering a proposal to add $1.5 billion to the bill for a summer jobs program that sends funds to local organizations who hire unemployed youth during the summer, said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the CBC vice chairman.
Black lawmakers and House leaders are still negotiating, but Cleaver said he expects a vote on the bill soon.
"We have not met anyone in leadership who didn't understand" our concerns, Cleaver said.
CBC members led the liberal opposition to the Senate jobs measure, which passed the upper chamber with 70 votes and had the support of 11 Republicans.
Black Caucus members said $15 billion, most of which would go to a tax cut, would do little to cut the 9.7 percent unemployment rate or the 16.7 percent jobless rate for blacks. Members of the CBC, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have called for new government programs that directly hire workers, money for worker training and loans for small businesses.
While the hiring tax credit is the cornerstone of the Senate measure, the bill also includes money to extend the highway trust fund for federal transportation projects, a tax break allowing small firms to write-off losses due to depreciating equipment and low-interest federal bonds for state and local government infrastructure projects.
House leaders have pledged to skeptics of the Senate bill that they will pass other job-creation measures.
"It's no secret that the House does not like that bill," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Rules Committee. "We know there will be opportunities to fix that."
Fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats also refused to back the Senate bill because about $2 billion of the measure isn't paid for. House leaders have since pledged to find a way to offset that cost, said Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), a senior Blue Dog. Ways and Means Committee members were meeting Wednesday to find the extra revenue.
Adding spending to the bill could endanger the bipartisan balance struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
"That's a problem," said Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), who voted for the $15 billion bill.
Republicans noted that they were ready to back an $85 billion job creation bill featuring business tax cuts crafted by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) only to see Reid discard it for a barebones measure.
"I understand he was not happy with the bill that was being pushed, the larger version, because he wanted to address immediate concerns at a reasonable cost," said Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). "So I'm eager to have them get it back so we can start to do the people's business."