The Senate's bipartisan jobs bill includes a tax break for companies that hire unemployed workers, money for highway construction, relief for private pensions and a one-year extension of the Patriot Act used to combat terrorism.
The bill brought forth for consideration Thursday would also extend unemployment payments for those whose benefits have run out as well as subsidies to help the jobless continue paying premiums for health insurance.
While the centerpiece of the measure is a $13 billion payroll tax credit for companies that hire unemployed workers, the bulk of it addresses leftover business the Senate couldn't get to last year when it was preoccupied by the health care debate.
Doctors would get a seven-month reprieve from a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees required under a 1990s budget law. The law governing the satellite television industry would be updated and farmers would get $1.5 billion for agriculture disaster assistance.
About $31 billion in popular tax breaks that expired at the end of 2009, including an income tax deduction for sales and property taxes and a business tax credit for research and development, would be extended through 2010.
The Obama administration has been pushing hard for a stronger congressional response to the country's chronically high unemployment rate, which now stands at 9.7 percent of the labor force. President Barack Obama has served notice on Republican opponents that he's willing to accept some of their positions and priorities as long as doing so doesn't mean he has to give up his.
Senate Majority Leader Harry, D-Nev., had wanted to vote on the bill before Congress takes a break for President's Day next week. But two major snowstorms that have effectively shut down the federal government for much of the week make that unlikely.
The top two senators on the Finance Committee, who released the bill, said in a joint statement that it should be acted on "expeditiously," but should not be rushed.
"Any efforts to needlessly delay Senate completion of consideration of this package through partisan means will undermine our goal of timely action in the current economic climate," said the joint statement by Democrat Max Baucus of Montana and Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa. "Action on the expired provisions is long overdue. Timely action on incentives for economic activity and job creation also is needed."
Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Grassley is the top Republican on the panel.
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