Senate Democrats voice skepticism over new jobs proposal

Democrats expressed frustration with the direction of the legislation as they headed into a meeting to discuss it with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
 

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Earlier in the day, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the panel, unveiled the measure.
 
“I would prefer a jobs bill that simply focused on job-creating initiatives; this bill has become something more than that,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who led early negotiations to produce a jobs bill. “Maybe that’s what has to be done in order to get some bipartisan support.”
 
The package includes a number of provisions not specifically targeting job creation, including an extension of expiring provisions in the Patriot Act and a seven-month freeze to scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements.
 
It also would extend expiring tax credits, such as the research and development credit and tax credits for home efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles. These tax extenders are estimated to cost $31 billion over 10 years.
 
Several Democrats are concerned the package is not large enough to have a significant impact on the nation’s 9.7 percent unemployment rate.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told reporters the package was too small and said he would introduce legislation to impose a 50 percent tax on bonuses paid by companies that accepted funds from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Brown said the proceeds would go to the Small Business Administration to fund loans to small businesses.
 

The core of the Baucus-Grassley proposal has several components.
 
• Tax credits for employers who hire new workers, including an exemption from Social Security payroll taxes for workers hired in 2010 and a $1,000 income tax credit for every new employee retained for at least a year.
 
• A provision allowing businesses to write off up to $250,000 in capital investments.
 
• Build America Bonds, a funding mechanism for state and local governments to lower their borrowing costs.
 
• An extension of funding for highway and transit programs through 2010, paid for with a $19.5 billion transfer to the Highway Trust Fund.
 
The bill also includes provisions that labor unions have lobbied for, such as an extension of unemployment insurance and subsidies of COBRA healthcare premiums for laid-off workers.