Senate Democrats look at infrastructure and 'caulkers' in jobs bill

Senate Democrats are crafting a job creation bill that would boost funding for small businesses, public services, infrastructure projects and energy efficiency programs.

An aide to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats are looking at proposals in those four main areas. But the aide said that senators have yet to finalize their specific proposals. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Durbin, who is writing the bill with Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), has said the Senate will take up the bill soon after they return later this month from the holiday break.

They are considering new transit and highway spending and efforts to help stave off public employee layoffs, as well as a new tax credit for businesses hiring new workers and a program providing incentives for homeowners to retrofit their homes, according to a source off Capitol Hill.

That would be similar to the jobs bill passed by Democrats in the House last month. The House bill did not include the tax credit and “cash for caulkers” proposals, which are supported by President Barack Obama.

The Durbin aide said suggestions of specific provisions in the jobs bill at this point are "pure speculation." The aide noted that Durbin and Dorgan are still sifting through 121 ideas offered by Democratic senators.

The $174 billion House bill included $48 billion for public works projects and $28 billion to help state and local governments avoid laying off workers. It also provides money for more unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits for the jobless and a full-year extension of the current transportation authorization bill.

The jobs bill push comes as Democrats enter a mid-term election year with the unemployment rate at 10 percent, near a 26-year high. With independent and White House projections showing the jobless rate to stay above 9 percent through 2010, Obama and Democrats are facing pressure to do more to create jobs.

But Obama administration aides and top House Democrats have also signaled that they'll stress the need to reduce the record $1.4 trillion deficit of 2009. Republicans have seized on both the jobs numbers and the rise in red ink to attack Democrats' economic policies.

Economic forecasters surveyed by the Labor Department said that the December jobs report, to be released Friday morning, should show no net change in job totals but a slight uptick in the jobless rate to 10.1 percent. Economic reports have shown a net loss of jobs each month since 2007.