Cracks in bipartisan support of jobs bill

The bipartisan coalition in the Senate that passed the jobs bill Wednesday is showing cracks as more votes on job-creation measures line up on the horizon.

Eleven Republican senators joined nearly all Democrats to send the $18 billion jobs bill to President Barack Obama, who has said he would sign it.

ADVERTISEMENT
But those GOP senators said their support for the Democrats’ measure was a one-time deal, noting that it was paid for and focused on cutting taxes instead of spending.

GOP conservatives said the coming jobs bills look too much like stimulus spending.

“I told [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.], ‘Don’t count on me,’ ” said Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) when asked about the bills.

Bond said he voted for Wednesday’s bill, which included an extension through this year of the highway trust fund, because it was a way to shake loose highway money for his state. He criticized Democratic leaders for blocking him from offering amendments to the bill.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he was able to vote for this bill because it was paid for, but he wasn’t hopeful the rest of Democrats’ jobs agenda would be offset. He voted against a nearly $150 billion extension of unemployment aid and business tax breaks last week because it would add to the debt.

“That’s $150 billion, of which $100 billion is not offset — that’s the difference,” Inhofe said.

Democratic leaders on Wednesday touted the passage of their bill as the first step of a “jobs agenda” that will feature bigger bills.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats were ready to work with Republicans after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) surprise special-election win in January.

“The American people sent us a message in Massachusetts and elsewhere,” Schumer said. “It was focused on jobs, the economy, helping the middle class stretch its paycheck. Our answer is, ‘We heard you.’ ”

The next bill Democrats are considering would increase lending to small businesses having trouble finding credit, Schumer said. Democrats on Wednesday said they’re also planning a new six-year transportation bill funded through the highway trust fund, tax incentives for businesses and homeowners to improve energy efficiency of their properties and an advanced manufacturing tax credit.

ADVERTISEMENT
The package extending unemployment aid and business tax breaks is also likely to come up soon, though lawmakers must reconcile the Senate version with the bill passed by the House in December that includes aid for infrastructure projects and state and local governments instead of business tax breaks.

Another factor constraining passage of more jobs measures is the Senate’s packed legislative agenda. Senate Democrats are planning to consider the contentious reconciliation package of fixes to the healthcare reform bill and student loan reforms next week. Democrats are also pushing an overhaul of financial regulations.

Republicans closer to the center than Bond and Inhofe left open the door to backing future job-creation measures “as long as it creates an environment for jobs in the private sector as much as possible,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

But he warned that Republican opposition to the use of reconciliation to amend the healthcare bill with a simple majority could slow down any legislation.

 “The Senate is based upon relationships, and any time the Democrats jam things through in extraordinarily partisan ways, as they’re doing with the healthcare bill, they’re making it more difficult for the Senate to function, whatever the issue is,” Alexander said.