As House Democrats mull legislative options to try to turn around the unemployment rate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) doesn’t intend to produce a big, new stimulus measure. Instead, she is taking a multiple-bill approach. Additional appropriations are among the possibilities, but whether infrastructure spending will be in the mix still is not clear. Officials in the construction industry, whose unemployment rate is much worse than the overall national figure, are hoping for action soon.
Pelosi convened a nearly four-hour meeting on Oct. 21 at which key Democrats heard job-creation ideas from economists, including Allen Sinai, president of Decision Economics Inc., New York City, and Heather Boushey of the Center for Economic Progress, Washington, D.C.
The first moves probably will be attempts to extend stimulus-package provisions due to expire by January. They include unemployment insurance, COBRA health coverage and “perhaps food stamps,” Pelosi says. There also is support for extending the first-time home buyers’ tax credit, which Pelosi says might be expanded to all home purchasers. The Senate at ENR press time also was considering extending unemployment benefits and the home buyers’ credit.
What about public-works spending? Pelosi says that in the meeting with economists, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) “made a big pitch” for more money for public works, and Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) brought her “an array of initiatives” in the spending arena. But she did not say how Oberstar’s pitch was received by his colleagues or provide details of Obey’s ideas.
The jobs-bill search comes in the shadow of a federal budget deficit that in fiscal 2009 totaled $1.4 trillion, or 10% of the gross domestic product. But economists attending Pelosi’s meeting said the need to produce jobs is worth hiking the deficit, for a limited time.
Republicans have not been shy in blasting Democrats about the economy. House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) contends the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “hasn’t worked” and says much of ARRA’s infrastructure aid “is going to projects that haven’t started.”
The GOP has proposed its own plan for creating jobs. It includes a small-business tax deduction equaling 20% of company income, small-business health-insurance pools, expanded health savings accounts, and cutting the 15% income tax rate to 10% and the 10% rate to 5%.