When they served notice last week that they would block any legislation not associated with the federal budget or taxes, Senate Republicans did so saying they wanted to focus the Senate on creating jobs for the American people.
That claim, however, is belied by a record of opposing several bills brought up this year by Democrats that aimed to bolster the nation’s flagging employment rolls, according to a statement released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office.
Led by its top two leaders, the Senate GOP sent Reid (D-Nev.) a letter, saying its members would filibuster any bills not related to funding the federal government or extending Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, including those for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers. It are those tax cuts for the richest Americans that are subject of much controversy in Washington.
“The nation’s unemployment level, stuck near 10 percent, is unacceptable to Americans,” the letter says. “Senate Republicans have been urging Congress to make private-sector job creation a priority all year. President Obama in his first speech after the November election said ‘we owe’ it to the American people to ‘focus on those issues that affect their jobs.’ He went on to say that Americans ‘want jobs to come back faster.’ Our constituents have repeatedly asked us to focus on creating an environment for private-sector job growth; it is time that our constituents’ priorities become the Senate’s priorities.”
Republican eagerness for job creation comes, however, only after trying to kill a number of bills designed to put Americans back to work, Senate Democrats say in a statement this week.
“The minority can spin this any way they want. They can pretend giving the rich tax breaks creates jobs, even though we know from the past decade that it doesn’t. If it were the case, given the Bush Administration’s giveaways to the wealthy, the economy would be booming,” Reid says in remarks delivered on the Senate floor. “They can pretend we can afford to give billionaires another hand out, even though we know we can’t. But no matter how many times you pretend, it doesn’t make it true.“
Specifically, Democrats cite a half-dozen pieces of legislation:
Republicans Opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Which Created Millions of Jobs. Last month the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated between July and September, the Recovery Act “increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million.”
Republicans Opposed the HIRE Act, Which Saved Millions of Jobs. On August 2, the Treasury Department reported that from February 2010 to June 2010, businesses hired an estimated 5.6 million new workers who had been unemployed for eight weeks or longer, making those businesses eligible to receive HIRE Act tax exemptions and credits.
Only Two Republicans Supported the Small Business Jobs Bill Which Will Create Over Half a Million Jobs. According to the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), the small business lending facility and the small business tax cuts in this legislation could create half a million jobs over the next two years.
Republicans Oppose Extending Unemployment Insurance, Which Would Create or Save Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs. “[E]xtending unemployment insurance benefits through 2011 would create or save 488,000 payroll jobs. The extension would also generate over 12 million weekly work hours for people who already have jobs, which means that extending benefits would support a total of 723,000 full-time equivalent jobs.”
Republicans Opposed the Cash for Clunkers Program, Which Saved Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs. Cash for Clunkers In December 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported to Congress that the CARS program created or saved an estimated 60,000 jobs. Across the entire automotive supply chain, Cash for Clunkers was projected to potentially generate or maintain hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Republicans Tried to Block The Travel Promotion Act, Which Will Create 40,000 New Jobs. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that the Travel Promotion Act could create 40,000 American jobs and yield $321 million in new federal tax revenue annually. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it would reduce the deficit by $425 million over the next decade. Reid notes that although Republicans made news this week with their filibuster letter, they already have been blocking most legislation for years.“A lot has been written about the letter all 42 Senate Republicans sent me this week. Maybe it’s news that they put it in writing. But that’s all that’s new about it,” he says. “Republicans have been holding good legislation hostage for four years. Important bills, non-controversial bills – every bill. It’s why we have a lame-duck session with such a long to-do list.”
That list includes the immigration reform bill known as the DREAM Act, repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military, a nuclear-reduction treaty with Russia, and more.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.