American Jobs Act

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Not to be confused with the JOBS Act of 2012.

The American Jobs Act (S. 1549) (H. Doc. 112-53)[1] and (H.R. 12)[2] is the informal name for a pair of bills proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama in a nationally televised address[3] to a joint session of Congress on September 8, 2011.[4] He characterized the proposal as a collection of non-controversial measures designed to get Americans back to work, and he repeatedly urged Congress to pass it "right away"; he also said that the bills would not add to the national deficit and would be fully paid for.[5]

Background[edit]

Since the start of the great recession, unemployment and underemployment levels in the U.S. have remained stubbornly high. Through the resulting "jobless recovery," consumer confidence has remained shaky, raising the specter of a double dip recession.

In August 2011, the U.S. Congress agreed on raising the debt ceiling and a reduction in deficits within the next decade. The acrimonious debate leading to the passage of this bill made clear that some in the United States Congress considered national default to be a viable political option. Following passage, Standard & Poor's downgraded the United States top credit rating from AAA to AA+ citing various factors including the long term political struggle to raise the debt ceiling and a lack of credible plans to reduce federal spending and increase tax revenue.[6] Economic data released in July and August 2011 came in worse than expected, and worldwide stock markets tumbled quickly raising the fear of a new recession.[7] After Labor Day, President Obama, in a major speech[3] before a joint session of Congress,[4] detailed a major new jobs package and urged the Congress to pass it without delay.

President's address to Congress[edit]

Obama's speech aired in the United States on 11 television networks during primetime, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC, and CNBC. Nielsen Media Research estimate that 31.4 million viewers watched the speech, 10 million less than the 2011 State of the Union Address, but six million more than his March speech on Libya.[8] The President's address was rescheduled to September 8 after his original request to deliver the speech on September 7 was rebuffed by Speaker of the House John Boehner, who cited a clash with a Republican Presidential debate already scheduled for the same time and stated that more time was required to secure the House for the President's visit.[9] The President made his speech at 7:00pm Eastern, instead of the usual 9:00pm start for presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress, so he would be finished before the first game of the National Football League season between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers at 8:30pm.[10][11]

The Republicans declined to broadcast an official opposition response, as it is traditionally done after a presidential address to a joint session of Congress. This decision was criticized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as being "disrespectful" to the president and the American people.[12] However Boehner denied any of this. "This is not a State of the Union address. The American people shouldn't be forced to watch some politician they don't want to listen to. And frankly, most of them would rather watch a football game," he said, referencing the aforementioned Saints-Packers game.[13] However, Congress members were still available to respond to Obama's speech individually.[13] Boehner later released a statement after the speech saying that "the proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."[14]

Elements of the proposed bill[edit]

The White House provided a fact sheet which summarizes the key provisions of the $447 billion bill.[15] Some of its elements include:

  1. Cutting and suspending $245 billion worth of payroll taxes for qualifying employers and 160 million medium to low income employees.
  2. Spending $62 billion for a Pathways Back to Work Program for expanding opportunities for low-income youth and adults.
    1. $49 billion - Extending unemployment benefits for up to 6 million long-term beneficiaries.
    2. $8 billion - Jobs tax credit for the long term unemployed.
    3. $5 billion - Pathways back to work fund.[15]
  3. Spending $50 billion on both new & pre-existing infrastructure projects.
  4. Spending $35 billion in additional funding to protect the jobs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters
  5. Spending $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 public schools and community colleges.
  6. Spending $15 billion on a program that would hire construction workers to help rehabilitate and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes and businesses.
  7. Creating the National Infrastructure Bank (capitalized with $10 billion), originally proposed in 2007, to help fund infrastructure via private and public capital.
  8. Creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety, while expanding accessibility to high-speed wireless services.
  9. Prohibiting discrimination in hiring against persons who are unemployed because of their status as unemployed persons..
  10. Loosening regulations on small businesses that wish to raise capital, including through crowdfunding, while retaining investor protections.

In total the legislation includes $253 billion in tax credits (56.6%) and $194 billion in spending and extension of unemployment benefits (43.4%).[15]

Legislative history[edit]

American Jobs Act, S. 1549

In the Senate, the bill was stalled by Majority leader Harry Reid on September 27, 2011 who said "I don’t think there’s anything more important for a jobs measure than China trade, and that’s what we’re going to work on next week," with emphasis on taking up more tenuous legislation which is less likely to draw political attention.[16] On October 4, 2011, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to offer the Act as an amendment to the China trade bill, saying that while he disagreed with the bill's approach to job creation, it deserved to be voted on.[17] On October 5, Reid announced a plan to pay for the American Jobs Act with a 5% surtax on incomes of more than $1 million a year.[18]

In the House of Representatives, as a matter of procedure; on September 12, 2011 The Speaker pro tempore laid before the House a message from the President transmitting the legislative proposal, referred to committee and ordered it to be printed (H. Doc. 112-53).[19] Officially H.R. 12, was introduced on September 21, 2011, by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.[2]

On October 11, the bill was voted on in the Senate where it failed to garner the necessary sixty votes to proceed. In response Obama vowed to break the bill into several smaller derivative bills.[20]

The first of these bills, was the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011, S. 1723, which would have provided $30 billion in state aid to hire teachers and $5 billion for first responders.[21][22] The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez on October 17, 2011 and failed in a 50-50 vote for cloture on October 20, 2011.[23][24] In the failed motion to proceed to consider the legislation, 50 Democrats voted in favor of opening debate on the legislation and 47 Republican Senators, joined by 3 Democratic Senators (Joseph Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Mark Pryor) voted no.[24] The $35 billion bill providing funding to state governments for public school teachers, police and firefighters would've been paid for with a 0.5% tax on incomes in excess of $1 million annually, beginning January 1, 2013.[25]

The second of these bills, was the Rebuild America Jobs Act, S. 1769, a bill to put workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America, would've spent $50 billion on transportation infrastructure projects and $10 billion to fund an "infrastructure bank."[26] The bill was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar on October 31, 2011 and failed in a 51-49 vote for cloture on November 3, 2011.[26][27] In the failed motion to proceed to consider the legislation, 51 Democrats voted in favor of opening debate on the legislation and 47 Republicans Senators, joined by 1 Democratic Senator Ben Nelson and 1 Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, voted no.[26] The $60 billion bill investing in roads, bridges and infrastructure, would have been paid with a 0.7% tax on Americans earning more than $1 million per year.[28]

A third component is scheduled to receive a cloture vote, in the US Senate, on November 7, 2011. H.R. 674, a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the imposition of 3 percent withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government entities, was an element of the larger American Jobs Act and passed the US House of Representatives on a bipartisan 405-16 vote.[29][30] Senate Democrats plan to attach an amendment to H.R. 674 to include an additional element of the American Jobs Act, which would give businesses incentives to hire unemployed and disabled veterans.[30][31] The "Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011" would be funded by "existing funding mechanisms" from the Department of Veteran Affairs, including adjusting the fee structure for Veterans Affairs Department home loans, as opposed to the tax on Americans making more than $1 million a year, which had been proposed with the prior Senate jobs bills.[30][31] A prior version of the 3% withholding repeal proposed by Senate Republicans had failed in the Senate on a 57-43 cloture vote, as Senate Democrats opposed the Senate Republicans plan to fund the lost tax revenue via $30 billion in spending cuts.[32] In the failed cloture vote 47 Senate Republicans were joined by 10 Senate Democrats in voting to open debate on the Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011, S. 1726.[33]

Another element of the Act was passed on March 27, 2012 as part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. At issue was a White House proposal to "work with the SEC to conduct a comprehensive review of securities regulations from the perspective of these small companies to reduce the regulatory burdens on small business capital formation in ways that are consistent with investor protection, including expanding 'crowdfunding' opportunities and increasing mini-offerings."[15] The proposal had originated on January 31, 2011 as part of the President's Startup America initiative, [34] and the JOBS Act included the requested provisions. The President signed the bill on April 5, 2012.

Related bill[edit]

On September 14, Republican Louie Gohmert introduced his own "American Jobs Act of 2011" into the House as H.R. 2911. The bill would repeal the corporate income tax.[35][36]

Another related bill that was recently passed is the Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011. The Surface and Air Transportation Program Extension Act of 2011 became a United States law when President Barack Obama signed the Act on September 16, 2011 (Public Law No. 112-30. The law extends taxes which fund federal highway expenditures through March and the Federal Aviation Administration through January. The extension of this act will, inturn, create many jobs for construction workers.[37]

Making the case[edit]

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking on behalf of the American Jobs Act in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dec. 8, 2011

Obama toured the country making appearances at various speaking events to promote his proposed legislation. He appeared before constituents of Eric Cantor's congressional district to press the Congress to pass his bill immediately.[38] On September 12, he gave a speech in the White House Rose Garden in front of a group of teachers, police officers, construction workers and small-business owners in which he stated that "if Congress does not act, just about every family in America will pay more taxes next year. That would be a self-inflicted wound that our economy just cannot afford right now."[39] In Speaker Boehner's home state of Ohio, Obama gave a speech described as "fiery" in a Columbus high school that led to the audience chanting: "Pass this bill!"[40] In a campaign-style rally at North Carolina State University, Obama told college students "Every single one of you can help make this bill a reality. … The time for hand-wringing is over. The time for moping around is over. We've got to kick off our bedroom slippers and put on our marching shoes."[41] At a black-tie dinner for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Obama pitched his jobs plan to Latinos.[42] In anticipation of criticism that the legislation was motivated by the upcoming election, the President noted that the election is fourteen months away and that Americans do not have the luxury of waiting fourteen months for jobs to be created.[4][not in citation given] In an October press conference, Obama responded to the suggestion from a reporter that his jobs tour was part of a political campaign, saying "The question is, will Congress do something? If Congress does something, then I can't run against a 'do nothing' Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it's not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town."[43]

Reception[edit]

Republicans and conservatives[edit]

Republicans and conservative radio hosts were quick to label the American Jobs Act as "son of stimulus" after the controversial American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist and Obama appointee to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, put the price tag on the American Jobs Act at about $200,000 per job, which Republicans argue as the true cost for the proposed legislation.[44][45] Conservative commentator Brian Darling criticized the act, comparing it with the stimulus, and stating that since the act is based on the same ideas it is unlikely to have a more positive outcome.[46] Some Republican members of congress opposed the act for partisan reasons, with one telling the press anonymously, "Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?"[47]

Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated that it would be a tough bill to pass quickly: "Insisting that this body and the two sides here agree on everything is not a reasonable expectation."[48] House Speaker Boehner said the president’s bill should be analyzed immediately by the Congressional Budget Office for scoring before the administration and Congress pursue negotiations.[39] Cantor confirmed to a reporter on October 3 that the bill as a complete package was effectively "dead" and that only parts of the American Jobs Act would be passed. With Obama stating a willingness to consider a piecemeal approach on the legislation, Cantor said "At this point I think that Washington has become so dysfunctional that we've got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make. Both sides want to do the big, bold things -- the problem is they look vastly different."[49]

Democrats[edit]

Many Democrats have balked at the bill, siding with the Republicans, especially those facing difficult re-elections in congressional districts where they are hesitant to support unpopular legislation.[50] A majority of the Democrats support individual components of the bill, but are unwilling to commit to the bill in its entirety, despite the White House's disapproval of the weak showing of support. Some Democrats from core Democratic districts oppose the American Jobs Act because it gives more tax breaks, thus contributing more to the federal deficit, which has given Obama more responsibility to sell the plan first to the American public, as he has done on a very prominent, nationwide speaking tour.[51][52][53]

Both moderate and progressive Democrats have expressed concerns about the bill. Joe Manchin, a more moderate-leaning Democrat, has openly voiced his opposition with the administration by arguing against the inclusion of too much spending, given by his remarks on September 29, "The ugly part of that act is $450 billion of spending, after we've spent, spent, spent." On the other side, progressive Democrat Peter DeFazio argued against the inclusion of nearly $250 billion of tax breaks, saying "Half of it is tax cuts, and quite frankly tax cuts don't work."[54][55]

References[edit]

  1. ^ H. Doc. 112-53 - THE ``AMERICAN JOBS ACT OF 2011 LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL
  2. ^ a b http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h12/show
  3. ^ a b "Full text of Barack Obama's jobs speech". London: The Guardian. September 9, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Sutton, Nikki (September 1, 2011). "The President's Jobs Address Enhanced with Charts and Stats". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ Calmes, Jackie (September 17, 2011). "Obama Tax Plan Would Ask More of Millionaires". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2011. 
  6. ^ Detrixhe, John (August 8, 2011). "U.S. Loses AAA Credit Rating as S&P Slams Debt Levels, Political Process". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved September 11, 2011. 
  7. ^ Condon, Bernard; Rugaber, Christopher (August 22, 2011). "Fear feeds Faltering Stock market". The Associated Press (The Olympian). Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  8. ^ Jackson, David (September 10, 2011). "Obama's jobs speech draws 31.4M viewers". USA Today. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  9. ^ Bobic, Igor (September 1, 2011). "Speechgate: How Obama’s Jobs Address Got Postponed". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  10. ^ Alison Gendar and Thomas M. Defrank. President Obama punts to earlier time against NFL game after caving to GOP of televised jobs speech. New York Daily News, 9/1/2011.
  11. ^ Relax football fans: Obama speech won't trump NFL. Reuters. 9/2/2011
  12. ^ No (formal) GOP response to Obama speech. USA Today. 9/7/2011.
  13. ^ a b Boehner: Most people prefer football to politics. CBS News. 9/8/2011.
  14. ^ Republicans' reaction to Obama speech is lukewarm -- and that's a start. Los Angeles Times. 9/8/2011.
  15. ^ a b c d Office of the White House Press Secretary. "Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act". White House. Retrieved October 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ Helderman, Rosalind (September 28, 2011). "Obama jobs plan: Senate Democrats won’t take up bill immediately, Harry Reid says". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2011. 
  17. ^ http://www.c-span.org/Events/Senators-Reid-amp-McConnell-Remarks-on-President39s-Jobs-Plan/10737424582/
  18. ^ Pear, Robert (October 5, 2011). "A Revenue Bill and a Gauntlet for the G.O.P". New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2011. 
  19. ^ 2011 Congressional Record, Vol. 157, Page H6049 (September 12, 2011)
  20. ^ Silverleib, Alan (October 12, 2011). "Obama vows to break jobs plan into separate bills after Senate setback". CNN. Retrieved October 12, 2011. 
  21. ^ Kliff, Sarah (October 18, 2011). "Senate Democrats’ education funding challenge". Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  22. ^ Jennifer Epstein; Manu Raju (10/17/11 11:45 AM EDT Updated: 10/17/11 5:30 PM EDT). "Harry Reid brings back Barack Obama’s jobs bill piece by piece". Politico. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Library of Congress". Retrieved October 21, 2011. [dead link]
  24. ^ a b "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote 177". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  25. ^ Lisa Mascaro (October 20, 2011). "Senate rejects bill to keep teachers, first responders on job". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  26. ^ a b c "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote 195". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  27. ^ Ted Barrett (November 3, 2011). "Competing infrastructure spending measures fail in the Senate". CNN. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  28. ^ Sunlen Miller (November 3, 2011). "Two Senate Jobs Bills Headed for Failure Today". ABC News.com: The Note. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  29. ^ "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 815". Clerk US House of Representatives. October 27, 2011. Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  30. ^ a b c Scott Wong (November 4, 2011). "Democrats hatch new jobs bill plan". Politico. Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  31. ^ a b Sunlen Miller (November 4, 2011). "Senate Democrats Move to the Next Piece of the Jobs Bill, With a Different Way to Pay". ABCNews. Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  32. ^ Thomas Ferraro (October 21, 2011). "Competing fiscal plans blocked in divided US Senate". Reuters. Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  33. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote 178". Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  34. ^ "On One-Year Anniversary of Startup America Initiative President Obama Sends Startup America Legislative Agenda to Congress". Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  35. ^ Quinn, Rob (September 15, 2011). "GOP Rep's Jobs Bill Would Abolish Corporate Taxes". Newser. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  36. ^ Ham, Mary. "Too slow: Republican Congressman snags ‘American Jobs Act’ before Obama". The Daily Caller. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  37. ^ http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-2887
  38. ^ Runningen, Roger; Talev, Margaret (September 9, 2011). "Obama Tells Virginia Voters to Press U.S. Congress for Action on Jobs Plan". Bloomberg. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  39. ^ a b Runningen, Roger; Goldman, Julianna (September 12, 2011). "Obama Says Congress Should Act on $447 Billion Jobs Plan With 'No Delays'". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  40. ^ Werner, Erica (September 13, 2011). "Obama pushes jobs plan in Boehner's state". Associated Press (msnbc.com). Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  41. ^ Superville, Darlene (September 15, 2011). "Obama touts jobs bill benefits for small business". The Associated Press (msnbc.com). Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  42. ^ Wilkie, Christina (September 15, 2011). "Obama Seeks Latino Support For Jobs Bill". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  43. ^ Sargent, Greg (October 6, 2011). "Obama to media: Stop pretending the GOP has a real jobs plan". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  44. ^ Forer, Ben. "$200K Per Job? Timothy Geithner Says White House Jobs Plan Is Still a Bargain". ABC News. Retrieved September 28, 2011. 
  45. ^ Zeleney, Jeff (February 7, 2009). "Panel to Advise Obama on Economy". New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  46. ^ Darling, Brian H. (November 7, 2011). "The failure of trickle-down Obamanomics". Human Events. Retrieved November 9, 2011. 
  47. ^ "GOP grumbles about jobs plan". Politico. September 11, 2011. 
  48. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (September 9, 2011). "Barack Obama Facing Standoff with Congress Over US Jobs Plan". London: The Guardian. 
  49. ^ Sullivan, Andy; MacInnis, Laura (October 3, 2011). "Obama's jobs bill falls to pieces in Congress". Reuters. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  50. ^ STEINHAUER, Jennifer (September 14, 2011). "Some Democrats Are Balking at Obama’s Jobs Bill". The New York Times (New York Times). Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  51. ^ Cooper, Helene (September 12, 2011). "White House Would Cut Deductions to Pay for Its Jobs Plan". New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 2011. 
  52. ^ Smith, Karen (September 25, 2011). "Obama pushes education spending in Denver visit". CNN. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  53. ^ Geraghty, Jim. "Obama’s ‘Jobs Act’ Tour Strangely Avoids Wavering Democrats". The National Review. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  54. ^ Condon, Stephanie. "Dick Durbin: We don't have the votes to pass Obama's jobs bill yet". CBS News. Retrieved September 29, 2011. [dead link]
  55. ^ Johnson, Whit. "Even Democrats skeptical of Obama's jobs act". CBS News. Retrieved October 3, 2011.