Around the State
This is the stimulus bill that President Obama has been asking Congress to pass ever since his joint session of Congress on Sept. 8. He urged Congress to pass his $447 billion stimulus bill by repeating his “Pass my bill” slogan a dozen times just during that speech alone. His "Pass my bill" campaign has been going on for over a month and has included trips to several states to take his case to the American people.
Five days after the joint session of Congress, the Senate majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. introduced the president's jobs bill, S 1549, in the Senate.
After three weeks of the president campaigning that Congress is blocking consideration of his jobs bill, the Senate majority leader reintroduced the president's stimulus/jobs bill in the form of S 1660.
This new stimulus bill has the same stimulus/jobs language as the original bill, but it now pays for itself by taxing mostly small-business owners. The new offset will increase taxes on those who make more than $1 million by 5.6 percent beginning in 2013. Last, Friday, Oct. 7, the Congressional Budget Office said the new taxes included in Sen. Reid's new stimulus bill would raise $452.7 billion over 10 years.
This amount more than pays for the $447 billion in spending that was included in the president's stimulus bill. Congressional GOP members are opposing the new tax. They explain that the tax increase of 5.6 percent is permanent and the stimulus bill is only temporary. As a matter of fact, most of the spending included in the stimulus bill occurs from 2012 through 2014. It includes the following:
- $50 billion for Department of Transportation projects including highway, transit, rail and aviation projects.
- $60 billion to $100 billion for federal loans and loan guarantees for transportation, water and energy infrastructure projects.
- $44 billion for a one-year extension of unemployment benefits.
- $30 billion for states to employ teachers.
- $30 billion to repair school buildings and community colleges.
I am guessing many readers are thinking that this stimulus bill sounds almost exactly like the $900 billion stimulus bill that passed in early 2009. This was the bill President Obama called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Democrat-controlled Congress passed that bill less than one month after Obama was inaugurated as 44th president. This bill was to provide jobs immediately on "shovel-ready" projects and keep our national unemployment level under 8 percent.
It is this data, coupled with the fact that the 5.6 percent tax hike will be permanent, that raises serious objections from many in Congress. So the Senate will conduct a test vote on Tuesday on the new Reid stimulus bill. The vote is one of three back-to-back votes that begin at 5:30 p.m.
Passage of the China currency bill is also one of those back-to-back votes. The stimulus vote is a question of whether senators want to begin the debate. This procedural vote requires 60 senators to vote in the affirmative. It will be interesting to see how the Senate GOP votes on this first procedural vote after last week's maneuver by Sen. Reid, when he changed the rules of the Senate to avoid voting on the president's jobs bill.
Meanwhile, the House will be debating the three free-trade agreements. Those are agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The House will also consider the Senate-passed Trade Adjustment Assistance bill.
This package of trade bills, coupled with a bill that helps displaced, out-of-work employees find new jobs, will consume much of the House side's work this week. Once the House passes the three trade bills, the Senate has an agreement to debate and pass them by the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 12. This congressional action coincides with South Korea President Lee Myung-bak's Oct. 11-13 visit to Washington, D.C.
Stay tuned to see how the president's stimulus/jobs bill fares in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The last stimulus bill that passed the Senate back in 2009 earned GOP Senate support from the two senators from Maine only.
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate secretary for the majority and minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of Gradegov.com.