House changes to jobs bill could risk Republican support in the Senate

Republican Senate support for the jobs bill could be dwindling thanks to changes the lower chamber made to the legislation, according to Congressional staffers.

The House on Thursday approved the $15 billion jobs legislation after making slight modifications to what the Senate endorsed a week prior. 

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One change provides more generous subsidies to the Build America Bonds that are included in the bill. That change has given some conservative lawmakers who supported the original measure pause when it comes to backing the proposal a second time. 

“I voted for it before, but I’ve got to review what the House did before I make a decision,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Republican Conference Chairman.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) also originally supported the bill, but expressed some concern over expanding bond subsidies.

“I have to take a look at that, but I supported the underlying bill,” he told The Hill.

To garner sufficient support for the bill, House leaders nearly doubled the bond’s subsidies, from $2.5 billion in the Senate-passed bill to $4.6 billion in the House measure. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who opposed the original bill, contends the subsidy increase will go to Wall Street firms that see the boost in subsidies as a reason to increase underwriting fees for issuing the bonds. 

Build America Bonds offers federal subsidies to state or local governments and defray borrowing costs on a wide array of projects, from infrastructure to public housing.   The House increased the subsidy to fund more projects, but Grassley contends the boost will be absorbed by Wall Street firms in the form of increased fees.

“The truth is, school kids and green energy efforts get what’s left after the bank fees are paid and city and state governments have released the funding,” Grassley said in prepared remarks, adding, “The House bill creates new opportunities for underwriters to skim the cream by expanding the Build America Bonds provisions that were in Senator Reid’s bill.”

The Senate could take up the jobs bill as early as Tuesday night. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could use a parliamentary maneuver to stop Republican senators from amending the bill and avoid another House vote on the legislation.