In releasing a proposal this afternoon designed to create jobs, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has drawn strong objections from Republicans and bypassed a powerful committee chairman in his own party.
Thursday morning, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his Republican counterpart, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), unveiled an $85-billion bipartisan bill with spending on roadways, the extension and creation of business tax credits, and other popular items.
Hours later, Reid announced a much smaller version, though he could easily bring up the popular provisions he cut from the bipartisan proposal as part of different bills.
“Senator Reid’s announcement sends a message that he wants to go partisan and blame Republicans,” said Jill Kozeny, a spokesperson for Senator Chuck Grassley, the Finance Committee’s top Republican. “The Majority Leader pulled the rug out from work to build broad-based support for tax relief and other efforts to help the private sector recover from the economic crisis.”
Reid labeled his proposal an “initial version.” It features an exemption of Social Security taxes for employers who hire workers who have been unemployed for at least 60 days, a measure to allow small businesses to write off more expenditures, and funding to build roads and bridges.
Senate Democrat aides said Reid’s proposal would cost about $15 billion.
“This is a simplified, focused bill that addresses our core priority: putting millions of Americans back to work by helping our business community thrive again,” said Reid in a statement released to reporters. “Each piece of this bill enjoys bipartisan support, and I look forward to swift action on this measure that will create and save dependable jobs.”
A spokesperson for Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus did not return a request for comment.
Reid subjected priorities from both parties to his drastic jobs bill cuts. Democrats lost an extension of unemployment insurance, federal funding to pay for health benefits for the unemployed and money for flood insurance.
Republicans lost a provision that would prevent the estate tax from increasing dramatically next year and a renewal of the Patriot Act.
“One word - wow!” said one committee Republican aide. “I would say that we are deeply disappointed that after so much work on a bipartisan basis - and only hours after the Finance Committee unveiled their draft proposal - that Senator Reid would chose to torpedo this deal.”
“After seeing how Democrat leaders handled the partisan health care debate of last year, today’s bombshell shouldn’t be a surprise,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokesperson for Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the second-ranking committee Republican. “Senator Hatch hopes Leader Reid listens the collective voice of the American people, changes his mind and abandons this partisan course.”