Washington Report: Updates from Capitol Hill

Washington Report: Updates from Capitol Hill

CBC Members Say Jobs Bill Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The news that February’s unemployment rate held steady at 9.7% and that the jobless rate for African Americans fell to 15.8% from16.5% brings little comfort to Congressional Black Caucus members, many of whom represent districts with unemployment rates as high as 17%. Twenty-one black lawmakers expressed their frustration on Thursday by voting against the jobs bill that the House passed with a vote of 217 to 201.

The centerpiece of the legislation is a 6.2% payroll tax exemption for businesses that hire new workers and a $1,000 tax credit if the workers stay on for at least a year. The bill also extends the Highway Trust Fund and the Build America Bonds program. Because it was modified to comply with the pay-as-you-go budgetary rule to mollify Blue Dog Democrats, the bill must go back to the Senate for another vote.

According to Democratic leadership, the bill is the first step in an overall job creation strategy. But Rep. William Lacy Clay and several other caucus members dismissed the piecemeal effort.

“I don’t know how you go back [home] and explain that you gave $15 billion mostly to businesses in the hope that they would create jobs while you’re robbing the Social Security trust fund,” said Clay. “I have no desire to participate in that game.”

The CBC had lobbied for the inclusion a large summer youth program; federal dollars for living wage jobs at government and nonprofit agencies; and a concentration of spending in areas where unemployment is the highest.
What they got was a provision that 10% minority contracting goal for transportation projects, which one Democratic aide said is merely a restatement of current law that isn’t even enforced now.

“We continue to have our issues deferred and we end up seeing the Blue Dogs get their way over and over again,” said a visibly disappointed Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, who co-chairs a CBC jobs taskforce. “It’s almost as if people, the Senate in particular, are saying ‘CBC members will go along with us–they always do’.”