Momentum on the Hill for a jobs bill

MOMENTUM ON THE HILL FOR A JOBS BILL…. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he expects the House to pass what he called a “jobs bill” before Christmas.

He indicated that the legislation might include money for public jobs, which many liberals have advocated; tax credits to employers for new hires, an Obama campaign proposal that was shelved early this year amid concern that businesses might game their payrolls; and additional spending for infrastructure and road projects.

“All the economic analysts have indicated that it is going to be very difficult” to reduce the jobless rate, he said, “but we are hopeful to make progress on that.”

For those who remain out of work in the coming year, he indicated the measure also would extend emergency federal unemployment and health benefits.

It may be tempting to think any lawmaker with a pulse would jump at the chance to support a jobs bill, given the larger economic climate. With double-digit unemployment, who in their right mind would reject a federal effort to create jobs?

The usual suspects, actually. Let’s not forget, in January and February, with the economy on the brink of a collapse, the overwhelming majority of Republicans preferred a truly insane five-year spending freeze to a stimulus effort. The handful of moderate Republicans who were willing to entertain the idea demanded that the recovery initiative be smaller than it needed to be.

And now that a jobs bill is back on the table, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) argues, “How will ‘spend, spend, spend’ get the American economy back on track?” I sometimes get the impression Eric Cantor is easily confused.

Roll Call reports that Blue Dogs are split on the idea, and most of the caucus’ leadership is opposed. Blue Dog Co-Chairman Baron Hill (D-Ind.) said he would “probably not” support the effort, and Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) said a jobs bill is probably unnecessary because the economy is improving anyway.

In the upper chamber, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) sounded skeptical about the idea, unless it’s done through the pending transportation spending bill. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she’s reluctant to spend more, but said a jobs bill may be worthwhile if it’s “very targeted.” Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe (R) and Susan Collins (R) both signaled reluctance, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the idea of a jobs bill is an “insult.” Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said of a renewed congressional effort to create jobs, “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

This isn’t going to be easy.