Democrats and Republicans blame each other for Congress's failure to pass a new jobs bill
Congress is unlikely to take further legislative action after passing the transportation bill
Congress is stymied by deep ideological divisions and election year pressures
Another month, another weak jobs report. And don’t expect Congress to do much about it anytime soon.
With unemployment stuck above 8%, congressional Democrats and Republicans blasted each other Friday for blocking legislation that would help create new jobs and spark stronger economic growth. Both parties have a number of proposals on the table, but with the campaign now in full swing neither side expects anything to pass before Election Day.
“The president needs to stop betting on his failed policies and start working with Republicans to remove government obstacles to job creation,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “We’ve passed more than 30 jobs bills – he should call on Senate Democrats to stop stalling them.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, ripped the Republicans for deciding “they would rather focus their energy on political grandstanding and empty, partisan exercises that will not create a single job.”
Who’s right? It depends on your point of view.
Congress is not completely incapable of action. In April, for example, legislators passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups – or JOBS – Act, which provides small businesses in need of capital with a range of options that were previously out of reach. The provisions are aimed primarily at helping fast-growing operations like biotech and tech companies.
Last week, Congress cleared a $105 billion bill funding transportation projects for two years and preventing a doubling of the student loan rate. But most analysts believe growing campaign pressure and Capitol Hill’s cavernous ideological divide will combine to make further legislative progress nearly impossible.
Next week, the GOP-controlled House will likely pass – for a second time – a bill repealing Obamacare, the president’s controversial health care overhaul. Republicans know the measure is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but they’re trying to score political points by keeping the issue front and center in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.
Boehner has also promised votes later this month on a Republican tax reform measure and a bill to, in the speaker’s words, “curtail excessive government regulations.”
Reid, meanwhile, is promising a vote next week on small business tax cut measure “designed to reward hiring and provide incentives for payroll growth.” The bill, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, would offer substantial writeoffs for new equipment purchases while also extending new tax credits for payroll expansions.
For their part, Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney both have a number of proposals on the table. Obama rolled out a $447 billion job growth plan last September, but the blueprint was never approved by either chamber. Democrats then broke the measure up into a number smaller parts – including the JOBS Act. The strategy met with mixed results and now appears to have stalled.
Romney’s plan includes a 20% cut in marginal tax rates, a repeal of both the estate tax and Alternative Minimum Tax, and a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, among other things. He’d also repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill and give a green light to complete construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that splits Democratic labor and environmental groups, and has been put on hold by Obama.
The bottom line as far as Congress is concerned, however, is that Obama embraces traditional Democratic stimulus ideas like expanding the public sector workforce, spending more on infrastructure, and pushing targeted tax cuts aimed primarily at middle and lower income families. Romney and his congressional allies hew to a more traditional Republican agenda of sweeping tax reduction and slashing federal red tape for domestic energy producers and others.
Don’t expect a divided Congress to give either side a win – especially before voters go to the polls on November 6.