CHN: First Vote on American Jobs Act Scheduled in Senate for Tuesday, October 11

The unemployment rate in September remained stuck at 9.1 percent.  Nearly 26 million people are either out of work or working fewer hours than they need.  Those out of work six months or more make up close to half the ranks of the unemployed (44.6 percent).  For some, levels of joblessness are far worse:  nearly one-quarter of 16-19 year olds in the labor force are unemployed; the black unemployment rate is 16 percent; for women who maintain families, it is 12.4 percent; for recent Gulf War veterans, 14.7 percent.
The net growth of 103,000 jobs in September is not nearly enough to make a dent in the disturbing levels of joblessness.  President Obama has continued to stump for his American Jobs Act (for a description, see the September 16, 2011 Human Needs Report, The President’s Job Creation Package), and is urging people across the country to exert pressure on Congress to act.

The first chance of action will take place in the Senate.   The President’s package was introduced by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (S. 1660) and it is scheduled to be taken up on the Senate floor late Tuesday, October 11.  This first vote is on limiting debate (cloture).  It will require 60 votes, which means it will not be possible to move the bill forward without some Republican support as well as near unanimity among Democrats.  Neither of these is certain.  Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reports that some Republicans including Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) might vote to limit debate if they were promised the opportunity to offer amendments to the President’s package.  On the other hand, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) voiced opposition to the cost of the President’s bill.  That does not preclude him from voting to move the bill forward.

The bill that will be considered in the Senate on Tuesday differs from the President’s original legislation in that it is paid for by a 5.6 percent surtax on income over $1 million, starting in 2013.  The President’s version would limit the value of income tax deductions to 28 percent for those with incomes over $200,000 – $250,000, would repeal oil and gas subsidies, reduce tax breaks for those sheltering off-shore income and flying corporate jets, and tax carried interest (for example, income for hedge fund managers) at regular income tax rates (not the lower capital gains tax rate).    Some Democratic senators objected to one or another of these provisions; the millionaires’ surtax seems to be more popular.

The Coalition on Human Needs sent a letter of support for the Senate version of the American Jobs Act to every senator on Friday, October 7.  Whether or not the legislation has enough votes to move forward now, if Congress sees that many constituencies want this kind of action on jobs, the chance that substantial parts of the bill will be adopted improves.

There is likely to be bipartisan support for extending the payroll tax cut now in place and for cutting the employer share of the payroll tax as well.  Advocates are concerned that if the package is picked apart, some of the elements most beneficial to low-income people would be dropped (such as summer and year-round jobs for youth, subsidized jobs, and other targeted aid for the long-term unemployed, including the continuation of the federal unemployment insurance program).  The new unemployment data shows how important these provisions are.

Labor and Employment
unemployment insurance