Responding to calls among rank-and-file Democrats for more infrastructure spending, House leaders Tuesday unveiled a plan to add almost $50 billion in spending on highways, housing and school repair as part of a year-end plan to create jobs.
The measure is aimed at keeping the fragile economic recovery on track with money for teachers, the unemployed and small businesses. A vote is planned for Wednesday.
The Senate, however, won't act until next month at the earliest and has less of an appetite for another costly round of economic stimulus measures.
All told the measure tops $150 billion once additional help for the unemployed and aid to strapped state and local governments is added to provisions designed to have an immediate impact on employment.
"This is legislation that brings jobs to Main Street by increasing credit for small businesses, by rebuilding the infrastructure of America, by keeping police and firefighters and teachers on the job," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "It's a bill that creates jobs, that meets the needs those who are unemployed and puts us on a path to prosperity."
But the measure is certain to come under assault from Republicans, who say February's $787 billion economic stimulus bill has done little to boost the economy and hasn't prevented the jobless rate from hitting double digits.
"It's just more of the same ineffective government spending money borrowed from the Chinese and the Middle East and the bill gets sent to our kids and grandkids," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
The measure was expected to be officially released late Tuesday. But a draft of the measure includes:
About $35 billion for highways and mass transit.
$23 billion to pay teacher salaries in an attempt to save or create about 250,000 education jobs.
$2 billion for job training, summer jobs for teenagers and for AmeriCorps.
A guarantee of six months of unemployment checks and a 65 percent federal subsidy for health insurance premiums for the jobless.
Extending the $1,000-per-child tax credit to 16 million poor families with as little as no income.
Help for states to pay for the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.
Extending stimulus bill provisions waiving fees of Small Business Administration loans and increasing to 90 percent to the portion of such loans guaranteed by the SBA.
House Democrats had hoped much of the legislation could have actually become law before year's end by adding the jobs legislation to a must-pass Pentagon budget bill. But the Senate said no, leading frustrated Democratic leaders to advance the legislation, although the Senate won't act as it is consumed by health care legislation.
Instead, a Pentagon budget bill advancing Wednesday will carry two-month extensions of many of the programs covered by the so-called jobs bill, including help for the unemployed and funding for highway programs.
Under complex scorekeeping rules, about $75 billion of the measure is financed by savings generated by canceling about $150 billion in unused Wall St. bailout authority.
But as a practical matter, all of the money is simply added to the nation's $12.1 trillion debt since the unused bailout funds would otherwise go unspent.