By Vicki Needham - 03/24/10 09:17 PM EDT
The House approved another election-year jobs bill Wednesday, doing so on a 246-178 vote.
Four Republicans joined 242 Democrats in approving the $19.3 billion legislation, which includes a variety of tax breaks for small businesses and the extension of a federal program meant to spur infrastructure projects by local governments.
Democrats hailed the bill’s passage as another step toward helping workers suffering through the recession.
They also stressed that the bill’s expenditures are offset through the closing of a tax loophole, meaning the bill will not add to the deficit.
“Let’s be clear, this bill means voting for lower taxes, new infrastructure and new jobs and it does not add to the deficit,” said Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Republicans criticized the bill as a handout to state and local governments.
“It’s tough to see this bill as a jobs bill or a small-business bill,” said House Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) during Wednesday’s floor debate.
Camp said 80 percent of the tax relief in the bill goes to state and local government. He said the bill would increase spending and taxes and not create private-sector jobs.
“In that respect, this is the Mini-Me of the Democrats’ stimulus bill,” Camp said, referring to the $787 billion stimulus approved last year.
The four Republicans who voted for the bill were Reps. Joseph Cao (La.), Mike Castle (Del.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Tim Murphy (Pa.).
Castle and Kirk are both running for open Senate seats.
Democrats in the Senate and House have pushed a series of measures intended to create jobs this year, though only one bill so far has reached President Barack Obama’s desk.
On March 18, Obama signed a $17 billion measure that provides tax incentives for businesses to hire workers.
Several other measures are in consideration in one or both chambers of Congress.
The attention to jobs is likely only to increase. Lawmakers are responding to high unemployment, which could imperil dozens of vulnerable Democrats in both chambers during November’s midterm elections.
The bill approved by the House on Wednesday increases the amount of stock small businesses can exempt from the capital gains tax to 100 percent, and extends that tax break through 2011. The $787 billion stimulus allowed a temporary exemption of 75 percent.
Senate Finance staffers told The Hill a small-business jobs bill is in the works, but could not say when the package would be brought forward. When asked, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) could not provide a timeline for moving the bill. “We’ve got some ideas,” he said. “[But] I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”