By a vote of 70 to 28 the U.S. Senate has passed a $15 billion jobs creation bill. As written, the bill would extend a tax break for businesses that spend money on capital investments, such as equipment purchases. It would also give businesses tax breaks for hiring the unemployed and states more money for infrastructure projects.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Wednesday's vote a small step forward but an important one. He said that this vote is a victory for hard-working Americans, especially those trying to find work. The bill now moves to the House, which may take it up as soon as Friday.
The administration says it strongly supports the measure but indicated it is only one step in the job creation effort. The President wants lawmakers to take up a bill that would increase small businesses' access to credit.
Several issues left out of the bill are now being discussed including year-long extensions of expired tax provisions with similar continuations of expanded unemployment coverage and health insurance subsidies for jobless workers. On Wednesday, a top Republican leader said any deal depends on working out the fate of the expired estate tax. Republicans also might raise pay-as-you-go issues about such an extension package.
A Republican aide points out that newly enacted pay-as-you-go rules require new mandatory spending or tax cuts to be offset with new revenue or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. The aide said that the Democrats probably won't offset it, and that debate is expected to happen in the next week.
Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., says Republicans will block consideration of a new bill unless they get a path forward fairly soon on the estate tax. The tax lapsed at the end of 2009, and if Congress does not act, it will return in 2011 at much higher rates and lower exemptions than most lawmakers want.