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Your US Congress: Still Tinkering with Insufficient “Jobs Bill” and Loophole Closures, Six Months Later

The months and months of effort put into a bill that won’t create much of anything in the way of jobs – more of a bill to stave off more disaster than anything – is a perfect model for a dysfunctional legislative system. To recap, the Senate passed a $154 billion package back in December that included a lot of the elements in this current jobs bill. The House broke it apart, passed a small piece of it (which did become law) and then passed another piece in March. The informal conference committee produced another bill which ballooned back up as high as $200 billion. Then Blue Dogs decided to strip out provisions that would maintain health care for the poor and the jobless and deliver aid to the states. Now, the Senate is putting them back in. And we’re nearly six months from that original vote, and the two chambers seem diametrically opposed on their priorities, with no end in sight.

Months have already been consumed on this bill, and new Senate changes mean the unwieldy package will have to go back to the House, which only narrowly passed its version before Memorial Day. But revenue deals at the expense of the oil industry now unite most Democrats, and the restoration of $24 billion in state aid is a calculated gamble to bring governors off the sidelines and ask senators to support the bill and forestall deeper budget cuts and layoffs at home.

After a party luncheon Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave a qualified “I think so” answer to the question of passage. “The issue is to get a few Republicans to vote for it,” Schumer told POLITICO. “The Republican governors, some of them seem to be energized. Whether it translates into votes, we’ll see.”

I don’t know if that matters, if you can’t then get enough Blue Dogs to back it in the House. And by the way, they’re only adding the Medicaid part. Jobless workers who were getting a subsidy on unaffordable COBRA costs? They’re out of luck, that will be offered as an amendment but it has little chance of passage.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats tinkered with the carried interest proposal, lowering the cost to money managers from the bill and using fees on Big Oil to offset it. At that point, you’re just trading one set of rich people for another, but the fact that you just cannot get enormously wealthy people to fairly pay their share of tax rates is really astounding.

WASHINGTON—Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal to raise taxes on investment fund-manager profits, suggesting a 33% effective rate on income now taxed at 15%.

The fund-manager tax is part of a broad package to extend jobless benefits and expired tax breaks the Senate is starting debate on Tuesday.

The Senate’s proposal comes after the House in May approved a 35% effective tax on fund managers’ carried interest.

But unlike the House proposal, Senate Democrats are proposing a lower, 31% rate for carried interest profits from investments held seven years or longer. That was done to placate Democratic senators worried about the effect of the tax increase on venture capitalists and real-estate partnerships.

There’s an idiom about difficult activities being like “cutting ice.” This is like going at it with a butter knife on the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.

…at the America’s Future Now conference, Rep. Barbara Lee is telling the assembled to call their Senators and push them to pass the jobs bill. If I read their changes right, the Senate bill will have more stimulus in it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen