Democrats not optimistic ahead of Senate vote on outsourcing bill

Senate Democrats are moving forward with a vote on legislation they say will restrict the ability of U.S. companies to move jobs overseas, even as Republicans decry the legislation as mere election-year posturing.

Democratic leaders are not optimistic they will achieve the 60-vote total needed to break a filibuster and bring the bill up for a final vote. The cloture vote is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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At issue is a package of bills aimed at small manufacturers, including a payroll tax exemption for companies that move jobs to the U.S. The package also includes provisions that would prevent businesses from deferring U.S. taxes on the income they make from foreign subsidiaries.

Business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) are strongly opposed to the legislation, dubbed the Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act. NAM sent a letter to Senators on Friday arguing that the measure would make U.S. corporations less competitive and hurt job creation.

The dim prospects for passage of the bill brought a steady procession of senators to the chamber floor Monday, with both sides accusing the other of playing partisan politics just five weeks before the midterm elections.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did his best Monday to portray the offshore bill as a moral issue, arguing that U.S. laws currently fund businesses’ efforts to ship jobs overseas — a “slap in the face to hardworking Americans.”

 “We fought so hard for this bill against such stubborn Republican opposition because we know we have to do everything we can to get people back to work,” Reid said. “That’s exactly what we’ll do this week. We’re going to take away the incentives corporations have to send our jobs overseas and give them powerful new incentives to keep American jobs in America.”

Reid pointedly saluted Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.) for supporting the small-business bill that President Obama signed Monday, calling them “the only two Republicans with the courage to put partisan politics aside and help small businesses create jobs.” He also called on them to support the outsourcing bill.

Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) was among several Republicans who assailed the bill during floor speeches Monday, saying it avoids the real cure-all that companies need — tax cuts — and imposes regulations and tax hikes that undermine job creation. Reducing profits for U.S. companies, he argued, could have an adverse effect on job creation.

“The bill wrongly assumes that all foreign expansion stems from greed, and that foreign expansion only hurts American workers,” Kyl said. “This bill could, in fact, hinder job creation in America, and actually send American jobs overseas permanently — having the exact opposite effect of what it intends.”

GOP aides compared Tuesday’s vote to Reid’s reintroduction of the Disclose Act last week — legislation designed to counter a Supreme Court decision that lifted spending restrictions on political advertisements by corporations and unions.

With the key Senate votes on the Disclose Act unmoved, Republicans viewed the vote as a partisan political exercise meant to put them on record as supporting corporations over middle-class Americans.

 “This is just another bill Democrats are pushing in hopes it will help them come November,” one senior GOP aide said of the outsourcing bill.

“Look at the timeline to see how serious they are.”

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Another GOP leadership aide pointed to the same dynamic. He noted that four Democratic senators — Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Maria Cantwell of Washington state and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — all opposed the bill in 2005.

 The bill must also originate in the House of Representatives, the GOP aide noted, and not the Senate, since it generates revenue.

 “They’ve got a time crunch, they’ve got members not coming back, they’ve got Democrats on their side who are not serious about this bill — and they’ve written a revenue bill in the Senate instead of the House,” the aide said.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed his support for the legislation, calling the U.S. corporate tax code “upside-down.”

“We create incentives for them to move jobs overseas,” Durbin said. “I wish this election would be a simple referendum on the debate we’re having on the floor of the Senate right now.”

The bickering comes as the Senate wraps up its final session before the midterm election. Democratic leaders hope to adjourn by Thursday or Friday, leaving roughly a month for members to campaign at home before the November elections.

But before leaving town, the Senate must also deal with a continuing resolution to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.