Barely an hour after the House of Representatives passed the debt limit bill Monday night, Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that the chamber would begin its August break early, and that there will be no votes until September 7.After a long debate to raise the debt ceiling that both parties called “manufactured by Washington” and “distracting” from a focus on job creation, Congress will take a vacation.
Congressional leaders from both parties used press conferences Tuesday to call for jobs legislation — just before they headed for the exits. And as they rush to the airports, Lawmakers leave behind a long list of jobs bills gathering dust.
First among them is the re-authorization bill that would put 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees back to work. They’ve been furloughed for over a week now, and hundreds of associated aviation-related construction projects employing many more remained halted. Because Congress didn’t act Tuesday, they will be out of work until September at earliest, and the federal government will lose out on over $1 billion in taxes and fees on airline tickets.
Trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama are stalled as Democrats and Republicans cannot reach an agreement on restoring Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides help to those who lose their jobs to overseas workers.
Congress and President Barack Obama are also considering an array of other measures, from an infrastructure bank to tax breaks for growing businesses. (More on those below.)
But instead of immediately pivoting to focus on jobs, Congress will take a month-long break after an abysmal June for jobs, and a July report that is not expected to be much better.
Congressional leaders could decide to reconvene on their own, or President Barack Obama could call lawmakers back to Washington to pass legislation that would create jobs.
A new poll released today shows most Americans have little confidence that Congress will make progress solving the nation’s problems in the next year. That certainly won’t happen while members take a tax-payer funded paid vacation.
As it is, Congress doesn’t work much compared to the average American — the House of Representatives is only scheduled to meet for 123 days this year — and lawmakers take home their $174,000 salary no matter how many days they work.
POLITICO’s Mike Allen collects this list of job-creation legislation pending before Congress:
- The federal highway program lapses on Sept. 30, and Senate Democrats say a multi-year reauthorization would create more jobs than a shorter extension.
- Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has been reaching out to Republicans to get support for an infrastructure bank (combining federal and private funds for marquee projects), which is supported by Obama, labour and the Chamber of Commerce.
- Extend 2% payroll tax break, which now expires at the end of 2011. Currently covers worker side; Larry Summers and other economists are arguing that it should also go to the employer.
- Other tax breaks, such as making R&D tax credit permanent and renewing clean-energy manufacturing tax credit (Section 48C), which expired at the end of 2010. The aide: “In this political environment, tax credits are going to be the most hospitable options. In the days ahead, we’ll say that the unfinished business of Congress includes these tax breaks that have lapsed.”
- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has a veterans’ hiring bill, aimed at providing job training for veterans who return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have a bill to promote plug-in electric vehicles.
- Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is pushing clean-energy incentives.
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