With unemployment at the high percentage rate of 9.7 percent, Democrats and Republicans alike have made job creation the top priority on Capitol Hill. Yet there still remains severe disagreements between the parties as to how to best address this ever growing problem. This split between the two parties became even more evident this past Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) elected to propose an alternative jobs bill to the recent bipartisan version.
Earlier in the week, Pres. Barack Obama met with top congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle to discuss the potential possibility of reaching a consensus on a jobs bill. A sense of optimism existed that perhaps a bipartisan resolution would soon take shape. The measure that was the topic of discussion was the one produced by the Senate Finance Committee.
This bipartisan resolution crafted by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was estimated to have cost $85 billion and attracted support from members across the entire political spectrum. Despite the realistic chances of the bill reaching the President’s desk, which has been a rarity in the current political climate, Reid and the Democratic leadership are in favor of adopting a smaller and more centralized jobs bill.
According to Larry Schwab, a political science professor at John Carroll University, “Reid is trying to get something smaller but still get bipartisan support. However, his recent efforts could make it harder to do so.”
The 361-page Grassley-Baucus bill contained numerous extra provisions and pork barrel projects that Democrats claim are unrelated to true job creation. In efforts to limit unnecessary bill spending, which could be used against Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, Reid is insisting that his $15 billion resolution be signed into law. Reid criticized the Baucus-Grassley bill of having a job creating message that was “watered down with people wanting other things in this big package.”
Reid’s plan does offer numerous policies which are favored by both parties. It calls for Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) and Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) provision of using $13 billion as a tax credit for companies that hire unemployed workers. The bill also includes tax breaks for businesses that purchase new equipment for their companies and further invests into highway and infrastructure projects.
This simplified approach to job creation has angered several Republicans, including Hatch and Grassley, who believe that Reid’s motion is derived from partisan tactics and questioned whether or not this smaller package will actually create jobs.
An official comment from a spokesman at Grassley’s office said, “Sen. Reid’s announcement sends a message that he wants to go partisan and blame Republicans when Sen. Grassley and others were trying to find common ground on solutions to help get the economy back on track and people back to work.”