The travails of the jobs bill

THE TRAVAILS OF THE JOBS BILL…. Mid-day yesterday, the top two members of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), unveiled “bipartisan” jobs bill to some fanfare. There were, however, a few problems that quickly became apparent.

For one thing, the Baucus/Grassley jobs bill was a little weak in the job-creating department. For another, their bill included a variety of tax-cut measures that had nothing to do with creating jobs.

A few hours after the “compromise” measure’s unveiling, the Democratic leadership said the Baucus/Grassley jobs bill simply won’t do.

Key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a rare bipartisan agreement on Thursday on steps to spur job creation. But Democratic leaders said they would move ahead on only some elements as the two parties maneuvered to address both the struggling economy and voter unrest over gridlock in Washington.

Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, said he would take four core job-creating initiatives from the bipartisan proposal — including tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed workers and increased public works spending — and seek to move those rapidly through the Senate.

“We feel that the American people need a message,” Mr. Reid said. “The message that they need is that we’re doing something about jobs.”

At this point, the details are still in flux, and will presumably be worked on over next week’s recess, but Reid signaled his intention to only accept portions of the Baucus/Grassley jobs bill that actually relate to jobs.

So, the Majority Leader didn’t exactly make the jobs bill better, so much as he made it less bad.

By some accounts, Reid was responding to the concerns of the majority caucus, which met yesterday afternoon and expressed deep reservations about the concessions made to Republicans. Most notably, Baucus agreed to move forward with a proposal to cut the estate tax — in other words, slash taxes on the extremely wealthy — in exchange for possible GOP support on a weak jobs package. Dems rightly considered the concessions excessive.

Work will continue next week, with a vote expected early the following week. And if you’re wondering why Dems didn’t try to pass this through reconciliation, you and I are wondering the same thing.