President Obama's proposal for a new jobs bill, including what will probably be tens of billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, boosts the chances that such legislation will fly in Congress in coming weeks. House Democrats have been working on a jobs package that party leaders have said will include infrastructure money.

In a mid-day speech Dec. 8 at the Brookings institution in Washington, the President outlined the main components he would like to see in a new bill.  He also said it would be financed from unused or repaid money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). 

The TARP program's cost, Obama said,  is expected to be "at least $200 billion less than what was anticipated just this past summer." That $200 billion would seem to be the outer limit for the envisioned jobs bill. But President also indicated he wanted to use some of the TARP money for deficit reduction.
He said the better-than-expected TARP balance "gives us a chance to pay down the deficit  faster than we thought possible...."

The main elements of Obama's proposal are:

---Help for small businesses. That includes eliminating the capital-gains tax on investing in small firms, extending the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's accelerated depreciation provision; waiving fees and boosting guarantees for Small Business Administration loans.

--A boost in infrastructure spending. The White House says the spending would go to highways, transit, rail, aviation and water projects.  In addition, the White House says it supports "merit-based infrastructure investment that leverages federal dollars." it cites the ARRA's  "TIGER" grant program for major transportation projects as one possible example. Some public-works advocates are pushing for an infrastructure bank.

--Energy efficiency/clean energy. Includes rebates for consumers for energy-efficiency retrofits and expanding ARRA programs such as industrial energy-efficiency spending and tax breaks for renewable energy.

--Extend ARRA provisions for unemployment  insurance, payments to senior citizens, COBRA health benefits, and direct fiscal relief to states.

Another big question is: When will the legislation move? Nothing has been introduced yet. in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would like action by the end of December. The Senate, enmeshed in a lengthy debate over a health-care bill, is believed to be looking at doing a jobs bill in January.

Congress does face a Dec. 18 deadline for passing a continuing resolution to keep many federal agencies operating as well as to reauthorize federal highway-and transit programs for at least while longer. But using that must-pass spending package as a vehicle for a not-yet-introduced jobs package would be a major stretch.