Political Animal


November 11, 2011 8:00 AM What it takes for the Senate to pass a jobs bill

By Steve Benen

Despite the support of a Senate majority, Republican filibusters killed the first three attempts at passing jobs bills over the last several weeks, including popular proposals for infrastructure investments and jobs for teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.

The good news is, the Senate managed to pass a component of the American Jobs Act yesterday. The bad news is, it’s an extremely small component; it won’t have a significant impact; and the only reason it passed is because Democrats managed to pay for it while leaving millionaires and billionaires alone.

On the eve of Veterans Day, the Senate approved new measures to help unemployed former service members, advancing a modest piece of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs package with rare bipartisan support.

The bill, approved Thursday by a vote of 95 to 0, would extend tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans. It would also provide new dollars for retraining older unemployed veterans for high-demand fields and includes programs designed to make it easier to get civilian certifications for military training. […]

The bill approved Thursday included another small piece of Obama’s proposal: It would repeal a tax provision slated to go into effect in 2013 that would have withheld 3 percent of payments from government agencies to their vendors.

The measures are paid for, not with surtaxes, but with an extension of an existing VA fee that had been set to expire.

I don’t want to dismiss the tax credit that encourages the hiring of veterans as insignificant. The unemployment rate among vets is roughly three points higher than the civilian population, and any measure intended to help is welcome.

But as a practical matter, even the most optimistic scenario suggests the impact of yesterday’s measures will be very modest, and the end of the 3% withholding rule — which Republicans hate, despite having created it in the first place — is expected to make a “miniscule” difference.

It’s why the self-congratulatory rhetoric on Capitol Hill yesterday was a little hard to take. Republican senators seemed eager to boast about how cooperative they were being, using the votes as proof that they’re willing to occasionally play a constructive role.

But the larger context makes all the difference. The only jobs bills that Republicans will even consider are those that (a) don’t create a lot of jobs; and (b) shield millionaires and billionaires from even the most modest sacrifices.

The House is expected to approve the Senate’s measures, which the White House also supports.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on November 11, 2011 8:07 AM:

    I'm thankful for small favors.

    The Republicans didn't ask for a reduction of VA benefits for all veterans, and/or to close VA Centers in blue states to pass this.

    Passing this is like keeping back the rescue boats, while instead, throwing a few lifesavers to the people floating in the water while the bands playing on in the Titanic.

  • DAY on November 11, 2011 8:21 AM:

    I have seen "Groundhog Day" too many times, and I am getting tired of it.

  • Anonymous on November 11, 2011 8:37 AM:

    On the eve of Veterans Day, the Senate approved new measures to help unemployed former service members...

    Which reminds me to get my bets in early enough on which wingnut manufactured Drudge peddled hyperventilation about how Obama hates America we'll be seeing today.

    Michelle mumbling something about a flag ------ 2:1
    Obama not fully participating in Vet day ------ 3:1
    White House/ Dover conspiracy ----------------- 4:1
    No winger faux outrage today ---------------- 400:1

  • berttheclock on November 11, 2011 8:41 AM:

    cundgulag, are you sure you didn't mean Life Savers mints?

  • T2 on November 11, 2011 9:25 AM:

    honestly, I'm amazed the GOPers even passed these two little pieces.

  • Dave in Austin on November 11, 2011 9:27 AM:

    What I'm hearing is that there was 1 dissenting vote on this piece.
    Jim DeMint, to no ones surprise voted no because he felt no one should be treated differently when it come to jobs.

    "DeMint argued that passing such a tax break was simply catering to an interest group and predicted little hiring would come from the measure. "Despite the overwhelming evidence that these tax credits do not stimulate hiring for targeted groups, the Obama administration continues to push Congress to pass another tax credit, this time exclusively for veterans," he said. "By using a politically sensitive group the day before Veterans Day, the Democrats are hoping they can trick Republicans into further complicating the tax code."

    Jim's a Turd...

  • c u n d gulag on November 11, 2011 9:52 AM:

    You think they're THAT 'tic-tacky?'

    Yeah, me too!

  • chi res on November 11, 2011 10:28 AM:

    "Better than nothing" is coming very close to nothing these days.

  • emjayay on November 11, 2011 11:13 AM:

    The trick to getting anything passed is to appeal to liberals with good stuff and conservatives by invoking the flag/military/anticommunist.

    In the fifties we got interstate highways for vacationers and trucking. The right wing excuse: so tanks and troops and stuff like that can move around easily, so it was called the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956. Then we got student loans, called of course National Defense Student Loans or something like that.

    They should have called it the National Defense Health Act. The National Defense Infastructure Act. The National Defense Equality for All Married Soldiers Act. The National Defense Military Heroes Employment Non Discrimination Act....

  • Carol Kufeldt on November 11, 2011 11:29 AM:

    Dave in Austin is right- Rachel ran the clip of his inane remarks on the Senate floor on her show last night.

  • square1 on November 11, 2011 11:39 AM:

    Once again we see that Democrats are a sorry, pathetic combination of being stupid and corrupt.

    Instead of leaving all the corporate giveaways out and making Republicans negotiate against them, Democrats threw corporate pork into their "jobs" bill and then allowed the GOP to cherry pick the pork and claim that the GOP was passing a "jobs bill". What happened to Obama's claim not to pass a bill piecemeal? That pledge sure vanished quickly.

    I honestly don't know whether it is less of an insult to Democrats to say that they were bamboozled into this deal, or that they willingly capitulated.

  • berttheclock on November 11, 2011 11:44 AM:

    square1, Lawrence O'Donnell who worked in the Senate for several years, said, from that first announcement of sending one bill to Congress, that the bill would have to be split into various sections. It became a procedural issue which, apparently, 1600 Ave, over looked.

  • square1 on November 11, 2011 12:37 PM:


    If you are saying that it was literally impossible to pass the a package as a single bill then you are incorrect.

    If you are saying that, as a matter of politics, there was going to be institutional pressure to divide it up, you are correct. In which case, the administration had two broad options: First, it could pledge to veto the bill if it was divided up. Or it could have been smart enough not to include anything in the bill that it wasn't prepared to pass a la carte.

    Now, Democrats have to go to their constituents and explain why they proposed a handout for corporate tax evaders and called it a jobs bill.

  • Texas Aggie on November 11, 2011 12:48 PM:


    Carol Kufeldt and Dave in Austin brought up something that requires a correction in the article. Check your own post about Rachel later on.

  • David Engage America on November 11, 2011 4:23 PM:

    I want our unemployment rate to drop as much as the next guy , but does anyone really think that any of these temporary tax cuts will help create jobs?

    Many studies have shown that temporary changes in income don’t alter people’s spending habits because they make financial decisions based on their projected long-term income. This is the reason that time and time again short-term tax cuts intended to incentivize spending, or hiring (employer-side spending), like the previous payroll tax cut, don't achieve their goals. http://eng.am/o2tLOH

    The real problem with these temporary tax cut is not who they would impact but that their impact is temporary. The American economy needs long term solutions not sure short-term stop gaps.

  • Doug on November 11, 2011 9:57 PM:

    "If you are saying that it was literally impossible to pass the a (sic) package as a single bill then you are incorrect." square1 in reply to berttheclock

    Once again with the pronunciamentos? Or am I confusing that with "ex cathedra"? Anyway, perhaps you would deign to inform us HOW the AJA WOULD pass as a single piece of legislation?
    As far as I can tell, vetoing any bill that doesn't include ALL the original requests doesn't meet your standards of "pass the a package as a single bill." If the legislation has to be vetoed because it's been cherry-picked, then, if I may, ipso facto, it's NOT "the a (sic) package" as originally proposed.
    As for your second suggesstion, if nothing were included in the bill EXCEPT what was known to pass, there WOULDN'T be an AJA. Or ANY "jobs" legislation, but something tells me you knew that.
    Or so I hope.

    "Now Democrats have to go to their consitutuents and explain why Republicans would only let them help returning veterans find jobs, but no one else."
    Fixed it for you.

  • MNRD on November 11, 2011 10:40 PM:

    To me, this vote indicates that it is possible (though difficult) to shame the Republicans into backing off from their obstructionism. Those Republicans were afraid of branding themselves as anti-veteran. This is a significant victory for the Occupy Movement and for President Obama's new, more aggressive approach.

    Thanks in large part to Steve's blog, there is a major shift taking place in the public narrative. The old narrative/assumption was that a high unemployment rate would doom President Obama's reelection bid. Period. The new narrative is that the Republicans deserve far more blame than the President for the high unemployment rate because they are DELIBERATELY sabotaging the recovery in order to defeat the President in 2012.

    The big opening for the new narrative came when the Republicans celebrated after causing extensive damage to the economy through the debt ceiling scandal. The reason why they celebrated is because, in addition to damaging the economy, they also damaged the President politically! By this untoward celebration, the Republicans proved that they had deliberately sabotaged the economy in order to cause political damage to the President. For quite some time, the new narrative didn't seem to be gaining much traction. Now, it has suddenly gained a remarkable amount of traction in a very short time! And this turns everything on its head!

    The stronger this narrative grows, the more difficult it becomes for the Republicans to continue with their crass obstructionism - as evidenced by the vote on the unemployed veterans bill.

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