Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Jobs Bill: Too Little, Too Late

Although the government was able to move quickly to pass legislation to protect large financial institutions, is has, as of yet, not been able to pass legislation to create jobs. Congress' inability to pass the current jobs bill, as small as it may be, has been caused largely by partisan bickering and obstruction on the part of the minority party. See the following post from Economist's View.

Legislation designed to stimulate job creation has been under discussion for months, but so far there hasn't been any action. It was an emergency when the big banks were about to fail, and we managed to put legislation into place relatively quickly in response. But when millions of individual households are failing, households that in total are every bit as important to the economy as a large bank, the sense of urgency isn't there. The fact the these households are struggling to get by until jobs reappear, and that every day that goes by without a job is another day of hardship, doesn't seem to register with legislators who seem more interested in playing political games than in helping people. Now, after all this time -- when it's nearly too late -- a meager, $15 billion dollar jobs bill (and only part of it is devoted to job creation) is about to move forward, but Republicans are threatening to hold it up even longer. I can't give Democrats much credit for a bill that is way too small and way too late to do much good, this should have been done months ago, but Republican attempts to delay it even further (and to oppose measures such as extending unemployment compensation), are inexcusable:
Make 'em Filibuster, Jobs Edition, by Jay Newton-Small: The Senate is bracing for a possible all-nighter as leaders have thus far failed to reach an agreement on the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. You may remember this as Harry Reid's relatively small $15 billion jobs bill that he introduced after yanking the Baucus/Grassley deal. The House then passed an amended version, and Reid is now hoping to pass this deal and send it to President Obama this week to be signed into law.

As he did the first time around, Reid again has refused to allow amendments (if the bill were to be changed in any way it would have to go back to the House -- resulting in a game of ping pong that has entrapped some pieces of legislation for years). Republicans last time were incensed that they couldn't amend the bill but 13 of them ended up still voting for it on final passage. This time around they are refusing to allow the Senate to proceed to the legislation in protest... This is essentially a GOP filibuster... -- a procedural tactic that will require a 60-vote threshold for a bill everyone knows will pass (the first version passed 70-28) and 30 hours of debate. Usually, such debates are wound out during civilized daylight hours. But, if Republicans refuse to pass the bill tonight, Dems are preparing force them to stay in session all night. ... Not quite a real filibuster, but at least one potential night sans sleep.

This builds on Senator Jim Bunning's five-day one-man filibuster of unemployment benefits. Dems seem increasingly prepared to force Republicans to publicly block popular, bipartisan jobs bills to demonstrate the degree of logjam in the Senate. Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Dems of playing politics with important legislation. But if this "filibuster" goes anything like Bunnings', Democrats are coming to the table with the upper hand.
This post has been republished from Mark Thoma's blog, Economist's View.
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