With so many Americans looking for a job — or worried about keeping the one they have — lawmakers looking for an edge on Capitol Hill are increasingly labeling their proposals "jobs" bills.
Tax bills, road projects, agriculture spending — they've all become "jobs" bills.
In the 18 months since the 112th Congress first met, about 90 bills that promise to create or preserve jobs have been introduced — about three times the previous two-year congressional cycle and seven times more than the Congress before that.
With the Labor Department reporting Friday that employers nationwide added only 80,000 jobs in June for an unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent, expect that list to grow before the next Congress convenes in January.
"Today's report is further evidence that Congress should be focusing on creating jobs and helping the middle class, not re-fighting old battles for political gain," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Friday.
Mr. Reid said the Senate this week will move toward votes on a series of "common-sense jobs bills" that include a small-business tax cut designed to reward hiring and provide incentives for payroll growth.
"Putting Americans back to work should be our top priority, not tea party politics or partisan maneuvering," the majority leader said.
But job-creation policies, like most everything else on Capitol Hill, rarely are devoid of partisan and political spin. And just what constitutes a "jobs bill" often is in the eye of the beholder, as Republicans characterized the employment report as proof that the jobs agenda of the Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress has been a bust.
"Today's report shows the private sector clearly isn't 'doing fine' and that President Obama's policies have failed," said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. "The president needs to stop betting on his failed policies and start working with Republicans to remove government obstacles to job creation."
Republicans who control the House chronically note that Mr. Reid has failed to act on more than two dozen of their "jobs" bills that passed their chamber. Mr. Boehner frequently holds up a card at news conferences embossed with the list to highlight his argument.
House GOP leaders say they will introduce their own legislation this summer to "rein in job-crushing red tape," including a measure to continue tax cuts instituted during the administration of President George W. Bush that are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
Some of the so-called "jobs" bills seem a bit of a stretch.
For example: The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, which doesn't specifically mention jobs, would require the Interior and Agriculture departments "to more efficiently develop domestic sources of the minerals and mineral materials of strategic and critical importance to United States economic and national security and manufacturing competitiveness."
But in a Friday news release titled "House to Consider Another Job Creating Bill Next Week," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, Washington Republican, said the measure will streamline government red tape in mining and related industries — thus fostering job growth.
The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which the House passed but is indefinitely stalled in the Senate, also is labeled as a jobs bill by House GOP leadership. The bill would exempt "farm dust" from falling under Clean Air Act regulations, a move that the bill's backers say would protect American farm jobs.
A massive bill that cleared Congress last month to fund federal transportation projects was a rare example of legislation claimed by both parties to boost job growth.
"This is the jobs bill for the 112th Congress," said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica, Florida Republican. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, called the measure — which promises to save or create almost 3 million jobs — an important "investment in good-paying American jobs."
But the "highway bill" almost was derailed when House GOP leaders initially insisted it include a provision for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands of the Canadian province Alberta to Nebraska and eventually the Gulf Coast. Republicans gave in to Democratic demands to leave the pipeline out of the bill.
Keystone highlighted a frequent debate regarding so-called jobs bills: just how many jobs would be preserved or created. GOP backers often put the number at tens of thousands, a figure dismissed by opponents as excessively optimistic.
While lawmakers consider just about any legislation they like a jobs bill, they also are quick to tag measures they loathe as job killers. Enter President Obama's health care law, which Republicans say will force employers to lay off workers or close up shop altogether.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and former presidential candidate, told CNN in late June that the "No. 1 reason [small businesses] aren't hiring is because of Obamacare."
"Without a shadow of a doubt, millions of jobs are going to now leave America" because of the health care law, she said.
Mr. Boehner has scheduled a mostly symbolic vote this week to repeal the health care law "as part of Republicans' focus on removing government barriers to private-sector job creation."
The president has said the health care law, most of which was upheld by the Supreme Court last month, will lay a foundation for a stronger economy that will create jobs.
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