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Senate Jobs Bill a Question Mark

February 5, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday that he plans to begin procedural votes on jobs legislation on Monday, but the exact contours of the bill he intends to introduce were still unknown as of late Friday afternoon.

The bill is expected to include tax breaks for businesses that hire new employees, as in the bill passed by the House last month (see House Approves Jobs Bill). It would probably also extend unemployment benefits and COBRA eligibility. The January jobs report released by the Labor Department on Friday showed unemployment dipping slightly to 9.7 percent in January, even though employers cut an additional 20,000 jobs.

However, leading Republicans such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said they don’t see much chance of voting for a bill that resembles the House legislation, but McCain said he would be willing to sit down and negotiate on legislation with Democrats. A bipartisan bill is being crafted by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, which gives employers a tax break for hiring unemployed workers (see Schumer and Hatch Call for Payroll Tax Break).

But it is still unclear whether Reid plans to get behind the Schumer-Hatch legislation or some variation on the House bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was skeptical after hearing Reid’s announcement. “They don’t know what’s in the bill, or how many jobs they expect it to ‘save or create,’ or when anybody beyond the Beltway will see it, or how much it will cost,” he said, according to

The search for bipartisan cooperation is apparently going to be difficult, but necessary, in Washington after Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate with the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, putting Republicans in the driver’s seat, or at least the backseat driver position.

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