U.S. House OKs Small Business, Construction Aid

WASHINGTON--A package of small-business incentives and construction subsidies passed the House Wednesday as Democrats returned to job-creation efforts after their bruising healthcare battle.

The House approved 246-178 a bill designed to boost investment in small businesses, which have been reluctant to take on new workers as the economy recovers from the worst recession in 70 years.

The bill would also expand subsidies for state and local construction bonds in an effort to bring down the 9.7 percent unemployment rate ahead of the November congressional elections.

Democrats noted that the popular Build America bond-subsidy program has funded $78 billion in state and local construction projects.

"It's been an effective tool in job creation," said the bill's author, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin.

The bill also bolsters state-run welfare programs and expands support for economic-development bonds -- a priority of black lawmakers who say that Congress has not done enough to help those hit hard by the recession.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

Though Democrats say job creation is their top priority this year, the two chambers have often worked at cross purposes as the more liberal House has chafed at the cautious approach taken in the Senate, where Republicans have greater power.

So far, Congress has sent Obama one job-creation bill, which shores up funding for a highway-construction program and gives a $13 billion payroll tax break to businesses that hire unemployed workers. (Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Xavier Briand)