Why Republicans want to save parts of the Obama jobs bill

The Senate rejected the Obama jobs bill last week, but both Senate Democrats and House Republicans are trying to resurrect parts of it. Problem is, they can't agree on which parts.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner talks to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday after a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

In a bid to salvage elements of President Obama’s jobs bill, Senate Democrats propose starting with a $35 billion aid package to help teachers, police, firefighters.

It’s popular with the public and teachers unions, but Republicans call the bill – especially its 0.5 percent tax hike on income over $1 million – a jobs killer.

House Republicans are taking the opposite tack. When the House returns next week, majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia says that the House will take up a jobs bill to repeal a 3 percent tax on private sector businesses that contract with the government.

Both proposals were in President Obama’s jobs bill, which failed even to make it to the floor of the Senate for a vote last week. But they appeal to different constituencies and are rooted in sharply different visions of what will get the economy rolling again.

For Democrats, it’s a jolt to the public sector, especially hiring or preventing the layoff of some 300,000 teachers.

“The choice is very stark with our colleagues across the aisle,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, in a briefing on Tuesday. “Do you want to employ teacher and firefighters, or do you want to protect those who make over a million dollars a year from paying a small amount more in taxes?

For Republicans, it’s listening to what private-sector businesses say that they need to start investing and hiring again, especially tax cuts and less government regulation.

“You’ve got to work with [small businesses] on the things they care about – taxes and regulation – and we’ve got to do it now,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at a hearing with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday. “They’re the job creators,” she added.

The Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act is the first of four bills repackaged from the Obama jobs bill, which fell short in a key procedural vote on Oct. 11. Some 3 of 4 Americans, including 63 percent of Republicans, favor federal funding to states to help teachers and first responders, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

“I think the country understands that Washington doesn’t create jobs,” said Congressman Cantor in an interview on Fox News Sunday. The $789 billion stimulus plan that Democrats passed in 2009 “sustained jobs for about a year and then the states were faced with billions of dollars in debt once that year was over with,” he added.

Instead, GOP lawmakers are pushing the Senate to take action on more than a dozen House bills, now pending, that aim to promote job creation by curbing financial and environmental regulation. On Friday, the House voted to block pending rules to regulate coal ash. The measured passed, 267 to 144, with 37 Democrats voting in support of the bill.

Stumping for his jobs bill in North Carolina, President Obama dismissed the GOP claim that cutting regulation would create jobs. "The Republican plan says what's standing between us and full employment are laws that keep companies from polluting our air and our water," he said at a rally in Millers Creek.

"Our plan, on the other hand, says, Let's put construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and schools," he added.

Responding on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said: “Let’s try a new idea for a change. Let’s try something that might actually work.”

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