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Reid Stiff-Arms Baucus, Cuts Giveaways And Ornaments Out Of Senate Jobs Bill

Harry Reid, in a rare bit of liveliness, has taken control of the jobs bill in the Senate, paring it down to its essential parts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans.

Reid announced Thursday that he would cut back on the jobs bill Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced only hours earlier, essentially overruling the powerful chairman.

“We’re going to move this afternoon to a smaller package than talked about in the press,” Reid said.

The bill now include four components: tax credits for employers who hire new workers; a provision allowing businesses to write off the cost of capital investments; Build America Bonds, which allow state and local governments to lower their borrowing costs; and a one-year extension of funding for transportation programs in the Surface Transportation Act.

Reid is absolutely right that hanging a bunch of unrelated items onto the bill, like tax extenders and Patriot Act extensions and the rest, would just add to the criticisms about process and distract from the real message. That said, what is the bill now?

Reid is slicing off the top four job-creation provisions from the Baucus bill. That would be the Schumer-Hatch job creation tax credit, the one-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund, the investment in Build America Bonds to encourage state and local infrastructure spending, and the write-off for small business capital expenditures. According to Baucus and Grassley’s numbers, the total price tag for such a bill would be $50 billion. CORRECTION: I read something wrong, this would be a $15 billion bill.

Reid set aside the social safety net spending, extending unemployment benefits and the COBRA subsidy, into a separate bill. That would net another $25 billion. Reid has promised to take that up later in February, after the Senate recess.

So you’re talking about a $50 billion jobs bill ($48 billion for the tax credit and capital expenditure write-off, so basically 96% tax breaks), with $25 billion in safety-net spending later.

There’s your “jobs bill.”

I’m happy for the small pleasure of seeing Reid tell Max Baucus to STFU. But really, this isn’t much of a bill, even pared down to its alleged job-creation elements.

UPDATE: It should be noted that this is part one of what Reid is calling a “jobs agenda,” and I do appreciate keeping it simple. But, you know, actually do something about the problem, too.

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David Dayen

David Dayen