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Senate takes up veterans jobs bill as key budget deadlines loom

November 07, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro | Washington Bureau
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks on the phone in the Capitol on Nov. 1
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks on the phone in the Capitol on Nov.… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)

The Senate continues to make its way through popular provisions of President Obama's jobs package -- taking up a proposal this week to give tax credits to companies that hire jobless veterans -- in an otherwise quiet week that belies the looming deadlines facing Congress.

With just weeks remaining to find agreement to fund the government and avert a shutdown, as well the Thanksgiving deadline for the bipartisan super committee to approve a deficit-reduction plan, this week's schedule shows little hint of movement on either front.

The House is in recess as lawmakers work their home districts, gearing up for the 2012 election, part of the GOP strategy of keeping its members close to their constituents rather than preoccupied with Washington.

The Senate has several issues on tap before adjourning for the Veterans Day holiday on Friday. And the super committee continues meeting behind closed doors to try to devise a $1.5-trillion deficit-reduction strategy that could win bipartisan support.

Today, the Senate will likely advance one of the few planks from Obama’s jobs plan that has found bipartisan support: a proposal to repeal a forthcoming 3% tax on contractors that do business with the government.

The proposal flew through the GOP-led House and is likely to find favor in the Senate, where Republicans have stood unified against every other proposal from Obama’s $447-billion jobs package.

But Democrats will seek to attach another provision to the business tax break, tacking on an amendment that would give employers a tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans.

With the jobless rate among returning Iraq and Afghanistan war vets in the double-digits, the veterans-hiring provision has popular appeal. It would provide a $5,600 tax break for companies that hire veterans who have been out of work for more than six months, and $2,400 for hiring veterans who have been unemployed for less time than that. It also would provide a $9,600 tax break for hiring jobless veterans with service-oriented disabilities.

A cost estimate for the proposal was expected to be released later today, and Democrats are expected to seek to offset it.

Blocking the veterans provision would be a risky political move for Republicans, who have stalled other popular aspects of Obama’s jobs plan -- including a provision that would have provided money to cash-strapped states to keep public school teachers and firefighters on the job, and another to invest in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Republicans have largely opposed paying for the jobs measures with a new surtax on households earning more $1 million a year.

In the White House weekly radio address, Vice President Joe Biden urged GOP senators to quit blocking Obama’s jobs efforts.

The Senate continues to make its way through fiscal 2012 spending bills as it seeks to meet the Nov. 18 deadline to fund the government.

Also this week, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., is expected to testify on Capitol Hill as the Fast and Furious “gun-walking” operation continues to come under congressional scrutiny.

And the super committee, which has already received more than 180,000 proposals for slashing deficits, will get one more entry as the Occupy DC movement hosts its own “Occupy the Super Committee” hearing later his week at its Freedom Plaza protest site.

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