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Senate, House to take up dueling jobs proposals this week

October 31, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro
(Brian Bohannon / Associated…)

Congress is fully engaged this week, with the House and Senate in session and a menu of legislative offerings as Democrats and Republicans struggle to dominate the jobs front -- perhaps the top issue among voters.

The Senate will take up the next flank of President Obama's jobs proposal – a $60 billion infrastructure initiative to put Americans to work modernizing roads, bridges, rail and airports. The bill is paid for with a surtax on millionaires.

Republicans have unanimously resisted the president's jobs package, and GOP senators are likely to block this latest effort from advancing. Republicans oppose taxing those earning beyond $1 million annually to pay for government programs.

The GOP-led House is also pushing forward its jobs proposals, considering a pair of bills to make it easier for small businesses to access capital by rolling back regulations on investors.

House Republicans have made efforts to show their willingness to work with Obama on these smaller measures, and this week's proposals parallel those the president has suggested in his jobs plan for a possible rare bipartisan alliance.

But first, the House will make a foray into social values issues.

The chamber is expected on Tuesday to take up a measure reaffirming "In God We Trust" is the official motto of the United States.

Republicans have tried to steer the focus on jobs, but GOP leaders have carved out floor time for issues, like this one from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), important to their conservative base.

Underscoring this week's agenda are the debt and deficit issues that have dominated this year's debate in Washington.

The super committee on deficit reduction emerges from its mostly closed-door talks for a public hearing Tuesday with rock stars of the budget world – the former chairs of the president's bipartisan fiscal commission, former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, as well as the chairs of another influential bipartisan budget task force.

The committee has until Thanksgiving to chart a deficit-cutting proposal or mandatory cuts will be made to defense and domestic programs that both parties hope to avoid.

Lawmakers are also racing against the clock to devise a year-end spending bill to fund the federal government and avert shutdown when current funding expires Nov. 18.

The Senate could finish a package of spending bills by mid-week to fund the departments of Agriculture, Justice and Commerce. The so-called mini-bus would need to be merged with House-passed versions of the bills.

Before the work week begins, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, were sitting down for a talk Monday at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center.

The Senate GOP leader has been known to bring colleagues to the center in his home state as part of its ongoing series of lectures on policy and politics. Monday's topic: jobs and the economy.

lmascaro@tribune.com

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