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Reid Fights for Fading Jobs Bill on Senate Floor

Today, the Senate is debating the tax extenders’ package, also known as the jobs bill or H.R. 4213. The beleaguered legislation has been cut by more than $100 billion to appease centrists and deficit hawks who still refuse to vote for it as it expands the deficit by around $20 billion. But what do those billions get? Medicaid funding for the states, extended unemployment insurance benefits for millions of Americans and a host of measures to close tax loopholes. Shockingly, the bill might actually fail to pass due to the Democrats losing the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and failing to win over a Republican — presumably Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) or Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.).

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, is not known as much of a rhetorician. But he gave a good, passionate speech opening debate again on the floor this morning — and giving a good rundown of what is in this tossed-salad of a bill:

I want to take some time this morning to update our fellow Senators and our constituents watching around the country about the bill currently before this body. This bill creates jobs, cuts taxes and closes corporate loopholes. It’s a good bill. It’s a necessary bill. This bill will make our economy stronger. It’s a bill I’m fighting for because the recession has driven Nevada’s unemployment rate higher than any other in the entire country. I’m fighting for it because we need to help small businesses grow and hire and once again be the engine that runs our economy. I’m fighting for it because I don’t think big businesses should get rewarded for shipping jobs out of America when so many here at home are desperate for a paycheck and the dignity of a day’s work.

This is the eighth week since March we have tried to find a resolution. We have gone back and forth countless times, considering ideas, compromising where necessary and courting support. We tried to bring it to the floor, but the minority said no. Once we finally succeeded in bringing it here to the floor, we tried to bring it to a vote. Again, the minority said no.

Somewhere along the line, throughout these charades, this job-creating, tax-cutting, loophole-closing bill has become a political football. The debate has focused more on winning and losing than on doing what’s right. So I want to take a step back and talk about what’s really in the text of this legislation. Let’s be crystal clear about all the good things a “yes” vote enables us to do — and what a “no” vote stops us from doing.

This bill: Extends the tax deduction for students’ tuition. Extends the deduction for state and local sales taxes. Extends the standard deduction for property taxes. Extends the deduction for the cost of classroom supplies purchased by teachers. Includes a $4 billion extension of Build America Bonds that provide low-cost financing for infrastructure investments. Extends Small Business Administration lending programs that provide low-cost loans to small businesses. Provides $2.5 billion in funding for state wage assistance programs to help people move from welfare to work. Extends the Research and Development tax credit that provides more than $6 billion in assistance to firms conducting research on new technology. Provides $5 billion in New Markets Tax Credits that encourage investment in economically-distressed areas. Allows retail and restaurant businesses to write off property investments over 15 years rather than 39 years. Provides tax credits to assist mining firms with their rescue team training and to purchase safety equipment. Provides wage assistance to firms that continue paying normal wages to employees who are members of the military’s reserves and are on active duty. Contains incentives to encourage film and television productions in the United States.

Later today, we’ll hold a vote on all of these items. Those who want to help middle-class America will vote “yes.” Those who want to protect corporate America will vote “no.” Those who want to create jobs and create the conditions for recovery will vote “yes.” Those who want to kill jobs, who want to stop our recovery in its tracks and who want to keep things the way they are will vote “no.” Those who want our economy to prosper and succeed will vote “yes.” Those who want this Congress and this economy to fail will vote “no.” Those who put people first will vote “yes.” Those who put politics first will vote “no.”

The American people are watching, and they’re waiting for us to act. They demand that their Senators understand what they’re going through and how badly they’re struggling. I understand. I know what the people of Nevada are going through. I know how much a good bill like this one will help those families and small businesses. I hope other Senators here do, too — for the sake of those in my state, for the sake of those in their own states and for the sake of our nation’s economy. As for those who still don’t see the value in creating jobs, cutting taxes and closing corporate loopholes — I hope they’ll take some time today to come to the floor and listen to their fellow Senators who believe in this bill. I hope they’ll listen with an open mind, and with their constituents’ best interests in mind.

The time to decide is closing in on us, but it’s not over yet. It’s not too late to do what’s right.

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