Reid hopes to unify Democrats in fight over jobs legislation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must bridge divisions among Democratic senators when they gather Thursday to discuss jobs legislation.

(D-Nev.) and other Democratic leaders are on the cusp of striking a
deal with Republicans, but the agreement has come with a political

{mosads}To entice GOP votes, Reid and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus
(D-Mont.) have built the package around a core of tax cuts: a credit
for employers who hire new workers; and a bundle of business-targeted
tax relief provisions, such as the research and development tax credit.

The wooing of Republicans has drawn criticism from liberal senators, as well as union officials and left-leaning advocacy groups.
The effort is similar to when Democrats last year included tax cuts in
the $787 billion stimulus and drew support from only three GOP senators — one of whom is now a Democrat — and no Republican House members.

uncertainty over the exact make-up of the package and a lingering
distrust of Baucus has only fueled liberal discontent.

The tax proposals would be added to the broader jobs package that includes an extension of unemployment insurance and subsidies for COBRA health insurance premiums, as well as a freeze in scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements.

also includes provisions enabling small businesses to write off the
cost of major investments, an extension of the Surface Transportation
Act, and Build America Bonds, which would allow state and local governments to lower their borrowing costs.

Senate Republican aides say there is no final deal until the entire GOP Conference has a chance to review the
package, a condition that has slowed progress this week, along with the snowy weather.

hopes to defuse this skepticism by unveiling the details to Democratic
colleagues at a “very important” meeting scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

want every member of the caucus to understand the jobs bill, why we’re
moving forward,” Reid said Tuesday night. “A number of members have
raised questions with my leadership … and I want to make sure everyone
understands clearly what is going on.”

A Democratic aide said there is a 50 percent chance of postponement because of weather.

Sen. Tom Harkin
(D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)
Committee, is one of several lawmakers questioning the strong tilt
toward tax cuts.

He has called the focus on tax cuts “shortsighted” and questioned whether it is possible to link employers’ hiring decisions
with tax incentives.

“We think that tax incentives can solve any problem, and it doesn’t work like that,” Harkin said.

Many liberal Democrats would prefer to spend the money on infrastructure, such as public school renovation.

certainly not great,” one liberal policy lobbyist said of the package,
which has circulated in draft form. “There are some good things in it,
but too much of it is tax credits with an unknown benefit.

“We would like to see a lot more money for infrastructure and a lot more money for green jobs.”

critics have faulted the size of the package, estimated at $85 billion.
The House, by comparison, passed a $154 billion jobs package in

A Senate Democratic aide familiar with negotiations said critics have become confused about their leaders’ intent.

“We’re not going to move one
large bill but a series of smaller targeted bills,” said the aide.

Democratic leaders unveiled a jobs agenda last week consisting of five
areas: tax incentives to spur immediate job growth; aid to small
businesses; grants to promote energy-efficiency construction;
infrastructure spending; and federal aid to state governments.

The Democratic aide said the pending package represents only one area of the agenda.

have plans to move smaller targeted bills for each of those five
sections and this is the first one,” the aide said. “In response to
people who say there’s not enough money for infrastructure and green
energy, that’s only true in this first piece of the agenda.”

aide said that leaders would introduce four other bills that “will
serve as the base bills for each of those other sections.”

of those bills would have its own special focus: helping small
businesses; promoting investments in energy efficiency; funding
transportation, water and school infrastructure; and providing aid to

But one union official questioned whether any of those targeted bills could win Republican support if not paired with tax cuts.

Despite the skepticism, Democratic leaders believe that they can win bipartisan support without major tax sweeteners.

Their aides point to examples of potential bipartisan cooperation.

Sens. Mary Landrieu
(La.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), the Democratic chairwoman and ranking
Republican on the Small Business Committee, respectively, introduced
legislation last week to boost small-business contracts.

Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio),
a senior Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has
joined Democrats in calling for more investment in transportation

Aside from disagreements over the size of
the package and the emphasis on tax relief, Reid must also solve a
potential rift over expiring provisions in the Patriot Act. An
extension of the provisions in the 2001 anti-terrorism law has been
included in the jobs bill.

Democratic incumbents, who don’t want to be accused by Republicans of
being soft on terrorism, want to extend the provisions beyond the

But other Democrats, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), want to overhaul and amend the law. They might be inclined to pass a shorter extension.

Labor groups have lobbied senators this week to include an extension of unemployment insurance. Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, plans to deliver letters to lawmakers urging action.

A GOP leadership aide said a draft of the bill leaked Tuesday was an old version and emphasized that
Senate Republicans have not yet agreed to anything.

one is really in town to meet and discuss these things,” said the GOP
aide, citing the snowstorm. “Most of conference has not yet seen the

As of late Wednesday, Senate Republicans had not scheduled a meeting to discuss the jobs package.

Reid’s initial hope that the Senate would vote on the package this
week, it will have to wait until after the Presidents Day recess. Reid
said Tuesday that the Senate is not likely to vote again this week.

Tags Harry Reid Mary Landrieu Max Baucus Patrick Leahy Tom Harkin

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video