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House shows rare bipartisanship in jobs bill's contractor vote

October 27, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey | Washington Bureau
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal a tax on government contractors, easily advancing a small slice of President Obama's jobs bill in a move hailed as rare bipartisan cooperation.

The bill repealing a not-yet-imposed 3% withholding tax passed overwhelmingly on a  405-16 vote. Obama proposed a further delay of the tax in his jobs bill, while Republicans pushed to repeal it all together. Just a handful of Democrats opposed the measure and the White House has said it supports the bill.

The vote capped a week of GOP efforts to promote the party’s alternatives to the popular White House proposals. At a news conference Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said he hoped the bipartisanship would extend to a longer list of bills that have passed the House but not been taken up by Democratic leaders in the Senate.

“Many of these bills passed the House with bipartisan support, 15 common-sense bills that'll help get our economy moving again,” Boehner said.

Leaders branded the bills “The Forgotten Fifteen” in an effort to build pressure on the Senate and convince voters that the party has an alternate vision for creating jobs.

It’s unclear the precise impact repealing the 3% tax on contractors would have on the economy.  Republican supporters did not offer an estimate for job creation.

The tax was passed as part of a 2005 tax bill, but faced fast opposition and Congress has since delayed its imposition. Aimed at catching contractors who avoid taxes, the business community argued it would be a burden to industry, as well as local governments who had to collect it.

Republicans said repealing the tax would eliminate uncertainty hanging over contractors.

It would also eliminate $11 billion in projected tax revenue, so the House coupled the repeal bill with legislation tightening eligibility requirements for Medicaid and other health programs.

That bill passed on a vote of 262-157, over Democratic opposition. Democrats had instead proposed paying for the repeal by closing a tax loophole for major oil and gas companies.

Republicans blocked that effort Wednesday. The Senate came three votes shy of passing a version of a repeal bill last week – and is not expected to return quickly to the issue.

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