Alex Kaplun, E&E reporter
House Democrats will try to move a jobs bill by the end of this year, potentially using the legislation as a vehicle to move additional investment in infrastructure and various transportation initiatives, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.
The Maryland Democrat said no decisions have been made yet about components of the legislation, only that he and other top Democrats would like to approve the package by the target adjournment date, Dec. 18. The Democratic leadership, he said, has asked committee chairs to make suggestions about what to include in the jobs package.
"Obviously, the health care bill has been, and continues to be, the most important item in terms of scheduling of when we are going to move things," Hoyer said.
He added, "We are moving ahead at a pace that hopefully will allow us to do something in the next few weeks."
Hoyer listed several items that are on the table: infrastructure, jobs tax credits, public jobs and unemployment insurance.
"There are a lot of options available; we are discussing those," Hoyer said. "We are discussing with economic advisers as to what is the most effective. And, frankly, there are differences of opinion on that."
One potential option is accelerating funding for highway construction to generate near-immediate job creation, he said.
With unemployment at about 10 percent, some senior House Democrats have called for additional legislative action to put people back to work.
"A jobless recovery is unacceptable," said Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the House Democratic caucus. "We cannot ask the American people to fund a Wall Street recovery when the benefits are not being passed on to communities and small businesses across the country, and people are losing their jobs, homes and health care. Our efforts must be focused on jobs and people, not only the GDP and monetary policy."
And though Obama administration officials have also hinted that such action may be necessary, they have yet to endorse a specific proposal.
Likewise, it remains to be seen if Congress is able to move a jobs bill quickly. While the House's short-term agenda is relatively light, the Senate is likely to be embroiled in the health care debate for several weeks. Additionally, Republicans have stepped up their fire on the $787 billion stimulus package that Congress approved earlier this year, and most are likely to oppose a similar proposal.
For his part, Hoyer declined to characterize the next legislative proposal as a "second stimulus," saying the bill would be much smaller than the stimulus law and would be aimed only at short-term job creation.
"It is clear that we need to act in a way that does get to the creation of job opportunities for people in the short term," Hoyer said. "That is what we are trying for."