Two weeks ago, President Obama sent his American Jobs Act to Congress. Eleven House committees are currently considering H.R. 12: Ways and Means; Small Business; Transportation and Infrastructure; Education and the Workforce; Energy and Commerce; Financial Services; House Administration; the Judiciary; Oversight and Government Reform; Rules; and Science, Space, and Technology.
The bill has not yet been sent to any Senate committees. At 412 pages, the bill is complicated but manageable. Given the politics, it will not move quickly. Congress just isn’t interested because it affects your life, not theirs.
Actually, Presidents do not introduce bills to Congress and they don’t pass laws. As in all occupations, those involved develop a shorthand way of speaking about their work. The U.S. Constitution gives legislative power only to Congress. Sometimes even popular books, TV programs, and movies get it wrong. That annoys me. This is how it really works.
The president, the cabinet and other advisors, and Democratic Congressional leaders outline the contents of the bill. They decide what they want and don’t want it to contain, its parameters, and other details. White House, cabinet, and Congressional staff members write the actual language. No, members of Congress don’t write legislation. They don’t have time. Depending on the subject matter, bills can be very complex. Nearly all include references to already existing legislation which must be clearly spelled out. Go to the Congressional legislative website and browse through a few.
Once the president approves the final version, he must ask a member of Congress to introduce it. A member introduces a bill merely by placing it in the wooden box, called the hopper, on the clerk’s desk. That’s where we get the phrase that something is “in the hopper”. If no one agrees to do so, the bill cannot reach Congress and they will never consider it. I don’t know of a case where that’s ever been a problem. The clerk numbers the bills in the order they are introduced, unless a member reserves a particular number beforehand.
The president has no control over which committees consider the bill, whether the committees hold hearings, or whether it ever goes to the House and Senate floors for full votes. Learn about where our laws come from here.
Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV introduced President Obama’s American Jobs Act in the Senate as S. 1549. Rep. John Larsen, D-CT introduced the identical bill in the House as H.R. 12. You can read the full text and follow its progress on Thomas, the Congressional legislation website. A summary and more details are available on the White House website.
The bill contains plans to improve the American economy in five categories:
TAX CUTS TO HELP AMERICA’S SMALL BUSINESSES HIRE AND GROW
· tax cuts for 98 percent of businesses · a payroll tax holiday for businesses that hire new workers or increase employees’ wages · expanding Small Business Administration loan limits, cutting red tape, and improving the patent system
PUTTING WORKERS BACK ON THE JOB WHILE REBUILDING AND MODERNIZING AMERICA
· Offering tax credits to encourage businesses to hire unemployed veterans. · Preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs, and keeping first responders including firefighters and police officers on the job. · Modernizing at least 35,000 public schools across the country. · Making immediate investments in infrastructure, modernizing our roads, railways and airports, putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job. · Project Rebuild: an effort to put people back to work rehabilitating homes and businesses and stabilizing communities, leveraging private capital and scaling up successful models of public-private collaboration. · Expanding wireless internet access to 98 percent of Americans and first responders by freeing up the nation’s spectrum.
PATHWAYS BACK TO WORK FOR AMERICANS LOOKING FOR JOBS
· Extensive reform to the unemployment compensation system. · A $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers. · Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring. · Expanding job opportunities for low-income youth and adults by investing in promising and proven strategies and programs like summer jobs and sector-based training programs.
TAX RELIEF FOR EVERY AMERICAN WORKER AND FAMILY
· Cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year. · Allowing more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s near 4 percent interest rates.
The White House claims that the plan is fully paid for as part of the president’s long-term deficit reduction plan. Frankly, I think it relies far too much on tax cuts. Tax cuts do not create jobs. They create votes.
The best thing about the plan is its heavy emphasis on infrastructure improvements. Infrastructure spending does not benefit only the construction industry. It creates jobs for every type of business, and the finished products will benefit all of those companies. You can read how that works here. And we desperately need to fix our infrastructure.
Some ridicule it by calling it a “second stimulus”. That’s just fine with me; maybe it’ll work this time. The republithugs hijacked the original stimulus for their rich folks’ tax cuts, proving yet again that tax cuts do not create jobs.
In his address to Congress on September 8, Obama urged them to pass the bill with “No games. No politics. No delays.” Yeah. I’d pay money to see that. Some have criticized Republicans for not wanting to sacrifice to solve America’s problems. Sure they are. They’re willing to sacrifice your life, your health, and your safety. They’re sacrificing the sound infrastructure, good schools, educated workforce, safe and healthy air, water, medicines, food, and workplaces that will improve all of our lives and protect all of us, all so they can have more money.
And our esteemed leaders will keep right on handing it to them.
For More Information:
Library of Congress site for legislative information: H.R. 12 and S. 1549
White House: American Jobs Act of 2011
Infrastructure Spending Stimulates the Entire Economy
Find out where the original stimulus funding went