Reporting from Washington — The Senate today passed by a 68-29 margin a $17.6-billion measure intended to spur hiring nationwide, sending the bill to the White House for the president's expected signature.
Once the bill becomes law, it would mark the first significant piece of job-creation legislation to pass since President Obama and the Democratic Congress earlier this year declared that they would "pivot" and focus on reversing widespread unemployment.
The bill would grant employers an exemption from their 6.2% Social Security payroll contribution for every new employee hired through the rest of the year, as long as that employee had been out of work for at least 60 days. An additional $1,000 income tax credit would be allowed for every new employee kept on the payroll for 52 weeks.
Experts are split as to whether the payroll tax holiday will boost hiring.
The measure also would make it easier for businesses to write off equipment purchases and would pump billions into federal highway and mass-transit funding programs, which Democrats hope will jump-start construction projects. The bill's cost is offset by tax code modifications.
"The bill we passed today is a targeted approach designed to get Americans back to work right away by creating jobs to rebuild our country's infrastructure and providing tax cuts for businesses to hire new workers," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill, Baucus said, "represents a critical victory in our job-creation agenda, and we will continue working to get Americans back to work this year."
The bill had passed the Senate last month, but was modified by the House, which required a second Senate vote.
The House is currently considering a $140-billion package passed by the Senate last week that contains a series of industry-friendly tax breaks such as a credit for research and development, as well as extensions of unemployment benefits and COBRA insurance subsidies for the unemployed through the rest of the year.
The Senate is expected to turn its attention to legislation that would provide struggling small businesses with increased access to credit.