- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 21, 2010

UPDATED:

The Senate’s top Republican said Sunday that GOP lawmakers “may well” vote for a jobs bill this week.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, prefers a costlier version drafted with Republican input, and he didn’t commit his support to advance the legislation on Monday to a final vote this coming week.

The pending measure would provide businesses that hire the unemployed a one-year break from payroll taxes and a $1,000 tax credit if those workers stay on the job for a full year. The cost is estimated at $13 billion.

The measure would extend a tax break for small businesses buying new equipment, provide a $20 billion infusion of highway and transit money, and help states and local governments finance big public works projects.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, upset Republicans this month when he scrapped a bipartisan measure that had many more proposals that weren’t directly aimed at boosting job growth.

Mr. Reid dumped business tax breaks and other items on wish lists sought by lobbyists. But he also took out provisions to extend unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless and health insurance subsidies for the unemployed that expire on Feb. 28.

A key test vote looms Monday. It would take at least one Republican to advance Mr. Reid’s pared back bill to a final vote on Wednesday. Mr. McConnell told reporters after his appearance that he hopes the measure could advance in a couple of weeks, but to do so means Republicans would have to filibuster Mr. Reid’s take-it-or-leave-it approach, which could allow them to seek to restore provisions that have been dropped.

But a Reid spokesman, Rodell Mollineau, said Sunday that Mr. Reid won’t bring back the full version negotiated between Sens. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, which Mr. Reid criticized on a Nevada news program last week.

“The fat cats did pretty well,” Mr. Reid said last week on “Face to Face With Jon Ralston,” a Las Vegas news program.

On that program, Mr. Reid said he was hopeful of winning the support of newly elected Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, with whom Mr. Reid said he was having “real good luck.”

The larger measure included about $33 billion in popular tax breaks, including an income tax deduction for sales and property taxes and a business tax credit for research and development, that would be extended through 2010.

The tax breaks, more than 40 in all, expired at the end of 2009. They are routinely extended each year — the House voted to extend them in December — but the Senate never addressed them because senators were consumed by the health care debate.

Mr. McConnell appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”

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