photo: Old Sarge via Flickr

The Senate just passed its $15 billion dollar jobs bill by a count of 70-28 (roll call will be here eventually), getting some Republicans to break its way after the cloture vote passed. $15 billion is actually a misleading number – the extension of the Highway Trust Fund would add $20 billion for infrastructure projects, but because of the way it’s financed, through a fund shift, it doesn’t count as an expense – but $35 billion isn’t exactly robust.

Still, the small-ball strategy appears to have worked, though one bill does not a jobs agenda make. Whether or not Reid figured out a formula to get an agenda passed will rely on more than shoveling conservative-friendly bills like a job creation tax credit for businesses out there.

So, then, two questions come out of this passage – 1) what will the House do with the bill, and 2) what will Reid push next? Let’s take them in turn.

The House has not decided whether to pass Reid’s pared-down bill whole, or go to a conference with their $154 billion dollar jobs package passed in December. Obviously, a bill whose centerpiece, the job creation tax credit, would create maybe 200,000 jobs at a time when 400,000 jobs a month are needed for three years to get the unemployment rate back to normal, may not be attractive to House leaders. But Reid is promising more down the pipeline.

What would that include? Well, he announced plans for a second bill in a statement yesterday.

“Addressing the economic challenges facing working families in Nevada and all across the nation is the top priority of Senate Democrats. Yesterday the Senate voted to move forward on a targeted jobs bill that could save or create over a million jobs. But Senate Democrats won’t rest because we know there is much more we need to do to help working families struggling to make ends meet.

“That is why I plan to introduce legislation within the next week to extend critical unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits, extend additional assistance to help states and extend tax relief for individuals and businesses. Each of these proposals has enjoyed Republican support in the past.

“With so many Nevadans facing economic uncertainty and needing critical assistance to support their families, we hope Republicans will work with us on our bipartisan jobs agenda. We need to continue efforts to strengthen our economy, create jobs and support working Americans throughout the year.”

This would seem to have four components. . . : the two safety-net extensions, for unemployment insurance and the 65% COBRA subsidy; state aid in the form of Medicaid (FMAP) funding for fiscal year 2011, similar to what was in the stimulus package; and that package of “tax extenders,” basically re-upping various tax breaks which expired at the end of the year. The tax extenders are a lobbyist’s dream, and may be enough to attract the necessary support to get the safety net extensions and state aid passed. As for the tax extenders themselves, some of them are total giveaways, but some, like the production tax credit for renewables, aren’t so bad.

Because of the different tactics from the House and the Senate, and even the White House, on paying for all of this (remember, PAYGO is the law of the land, so offsets are required), confusion is reigning. The Senate actually waived a point of order from Judd Gregg on the jobs bill today which would have required finding more offsets due to those accounting maneuvers to fund the highway trust extension. So nobody really knows what will reach the finish line at this point.

The Senate just passed its $15 billion dollar jobs bill by a count of 70-28 (roll call will be here eventually), getting some Republicans to break its way after the cloture vote passed. $15 billion is actually a misleading number – the extension of the Highway Trust Fund would add $20 billion for infrastructure projects, but because of the way it’s financed, through a fund shift, it doesn’t count as an expense – but $35 billion isn’t exactly robust.

Still, the small-ball strategy appears to have worked, though one bill does not a jobs agenda make. Whether or not Reid figured out a formula to get an agenda passed will rely on more than shoveling conservative-friendly bills like a job creation tax credit for businesses out there.

So, then, two questions come out of this passage – 1) what will the House do with the bill, and 2) what will Reid push next? Let’s take them in turn.

The House has not decided whether to pass Reid’s pared-down bill whole, or go to a conference with their $154 billion dollar jobs package passed in December. Obviously, a bill whose centerpiece, the job creation tax credit, would create maybe 200,000 jobs at a time when 400,000 jobs a month are needed for three years to get the unemployment rate back to normal, may not be attractive to House leaders. But Reid is promising more down the pipeline.

What would that include? Well, he announced plans for a second bill in a statement yesterday.

“Addressing the economic challenges facing working families in Nevada and all across the nation is the top priority of Senate Democrats. Yesterday the Senate voted to move forward on a targeted jobs bill that could save or create over a million jobs. But Senate Democrats won’t rest because we know there is much more we need to do to help working families struggling to make ends meet.

“That is why I plan to introduce legislation within the next week to extend critical unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits, extend additional assistance to help states and extend tax relief for individuals and businesses. Each of these proposals has enjoyed Republican support in the past.

“With so many Nevadans facing economic uncertainty and needing critical assistance to support their families, we hope Republicans will work with us on our bipartisan jobs agenda. We need to continue efforts to strengthen our economy, create jobs and support working Americans throughout the year.”

This would seem to have four components: the two safety-net extensions, for unemployment insurance and the 65% COBRA subsidy; state aid in the form of Medicaid (FMAP) funding for fiscal year 2011, similar to what was in the stimulus package; and that package of “tax extenders,” basically re-upping various tax breaks which expired at the end of the year. The tax extenders are a lobbyist’s dream, and may be enough to attract the necessary support to get the safety net extensions and state aid passed. As for the tax extenders themselves, some of them are total giveaways, but some, like the production tax credit for renewables, aren’t so bad.

Because of the different tactics from the House and the Senate, and even the White House, on paying for all of this (remember, PAYGO is the law of the land, so offsets are required), confusion is reigning. The Senate actually waived a point of order from Judd Gregg on the jobs bill today which would have required finding more offsets due to those accounting maneuvers to fund the highway trust extension. So nobody really knows what will reach the finish line at this point.

UPDATE: Roll call is up. Six Republicans who voted no on cloture went yes on the final bill: Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), James Inhofe (R-OK), George LeMieux (R-FL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). In addition, Orrin Hatch (who co-authored the tax credit which is most of this bill) and Richard Burr (R-NC) didn’t vote at all on cloture and went yes on the bill.

Burr’s vote is interesting, because he’s actually vulnerable in November, and his likely opponent in the Senate race Elaine Marshall hammered him over skipping the vote (“It seems the only way for North Carolinians to get the jobs they need is for Richard Burr to lose his. I plan to send him home this November”). Burr said earlier this week that “it is impossible for any candidate to get to the right of me.” Apparently 28 Senators found a way today. (Expect to see that quote everywhere in North Carolina this fall)

David Dayen

David Dayen