A bill to create construction jobs and fund new highway infrastructure. A clean-energy jobs program. Reforming the immigration system for high-skilled workers. And a variety of tax cuts and credits.
None of them are new ideas, but they’re all part of Senate Democrats’ jobs agenda Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) laid out in greater detail Thursday as he portrayed his party as proactively trying to spur economic growth and accused the GOP of deliberately trying to undermine the recovery for political gain.
“We have now been playing entirely on the Republicans‘ field for six months and the recovery has only slowed. We have seen enough to know that their approach is not working,” Schumer, who heads policy and messaging for Senate Democrats, said at a speech to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
“And we need to start asking ourselves an uncomfortable question – are Republicans slowing down the recovery on purpose for political gain in 2012? … [N]ow it is becoming clear that insisting on a slash-and-burn approach may be part of this plan – it has a double-benefit for Republicans: it is ideologically tidy and it undermines the economic recovery, which they think only helps them in 2012.”
Republicans have scoffed at that notion, arguing that Democrats’ solution to the broken economy is tax increases and a continuation of failed stimulus spending. This week, the GOP renewed its push for a constitutional amendment that would require the government to balance its budget each year.
“Broke or Balanced. That’s the choice,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor Wednesday.
McConnell on Thursday personally invited President Barack Obama to the Capitol to explain to Republicans why he believes tax increases should be included in debt talks.
“What I heard him propose is that we solve the debt crisis by spending more money. And that we solve a jobs crisis by raising taxes,” McConnell said.
“I want to know: Is there a single member of Congress — Democrat or Republican — who thinks it’s a good idea to raise hundreds of billions in new job-killing taxes at a time when 14 million Americans are out of work? If so, I haven’t heard from any of them.”
But as Republicans have focused on extracting deep cuts out of negotiations to raise the $14 trillion debt ceiling, Schumer said, they’ve taken their eye off of job creation.
“The American people realize that we not only have $14 trillion in debt, we also have 14 million hard working Americans looking for jobs, and we have to do something about both,” he said. “This means we no longer have the political winds in our face as we seek to do something to create jobs”
Democrats have been kicking around jobs legislation for months, but Schumer outlined the top priorities his party would focus on as part of its “Jobs First Agenda.”
In addition to a highway bill and clean-energy program, it would include a National Infrastructure Bank to help leverage private-sector investments for national or regional projects; immigration reform for highly skilled workers to spur innovation and new technology to create jobs; and a bill to restrict currency manipulation by China and other countries.
The jobs plan also could include an extension of the employee payroll tax cut that was part of a bipartisan deal worked out last December, and reforms to tax credits for research and development as well as green-energy projects.
Schumer said some of these proposal should be included in debt talks now underway between the White House and congressional Republicans. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants his committee chairmen to hold hearings on jobs legislation and present ideas to leadership by Aug. 1 so the party can set its long-term jobs plan.