Republicans and Democrats joined to pass the first pieces of President Obama’s jobs package, sending to the president a slim slice of common ground while the bulk of the legislation remains stalled in a divided Congress.
The legislation passed Wednesday repeals a tax on government contractors, boosts job training for veterans and offers tax credits to companies that hire unemployed veterans. The House passed the measure easily, and Obama has said he will sign it.
"This is a good first step, but it is only a step. Congress needs to pass the rest of my American Jobs Act so that we can create jobs and put money in the pockets of the middle class," Obama, who is in Australia, said in a statement shortly after the vote.
While both parties hailed the move as a step toward job creation, it is widely viewed as a small step. Advocates for repealing the 3% withholding tax, which was signed into law in 2006 but was never enacted, argued that it could prevent further job losses, but gave no estimate of the number of new jobs might be created.
The tax-credit program is not expected to affect enough of the 850,000 unemployed veterans to make a significant dent in the nation’s 14 million unemployed. Supporters estimated the job-training program could reach 100,000 veterans.
But Wednesday’s vote was evidence of the continued attempt to show action on the issue voters see as the No. 1 priority -- the bill was approved 422-0 -- as well as a chance for each party to tout its preferred solutions.
The legislation will give companies a $5,600 tax credit for each veteran hired who has been unemployed for at least six months. A smaller tax credit would be offered for bringing on veterans who have been jobless for fewer than six months.
A $9,600 tax credit for hiring out-of-work veterans with service-related disabilities is also included.
The legislation represents roughly $2 billion of the $447-billion price tag for the jobs bill proposed by Obama earlier this fall. The cost will be covered by an extension of a Department of Veterans Affairs loan fee.