Washington Report

Dispatches from Capitol Hill

House Passes Jobs Bill

jobsThe House voted 217-212 to pass a $154 billion jobs bill on Wednesday that will stimulate the labor market and extend the safety net. Every Republican and 38 Democrats voted against the Jobs for Main Street Act. The Senate, still deeply embroiled in a battle for healthcare reform, won’t tackle the jobs issue until next year, but House Democrats wanted to return to their districts for the holiday recess and reassure voters that they are on the job.

“I have no doubt that the [bill] will be an effective catalyst for job creation and a central component of our ongoing commitment to getting our economy back on track,” said House Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.

The bill includes $48 billion for infrastructure initiatives such as highway and mass transit projects and school construction and renovation and $23 billion to help save or create approximately 250,000 education jobs and recruit 5,000 law enforcement officers. It provides $79 billion for a six-month extension of unemployment benefits; $12.3 billion for COBRA, the subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance available to laid-off workers; and $24.5 billion in federal matching funds for Medicaid.

What it doesn’t do, says Rep. Artur Davis (D-Alabama), is take an aggressive enough approach to job protection and creation and small business lending.

“I don’t think the House should have the illusion as it leaves here that much more doesn’t have to be done and that the public won’t demand that much more be done next year,” said Davis. “We’ve got to do more to stimulate lending to small businesses. That’s an important problem and chokehold that exists in this economy.” He has introduced the Main Street Survival Act, which would use leftover TARP funds to establish a $1 billion revolving loan fund for small- and mid-sized businesses that are struggling to obtain credit.

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