Unions and Liberal Groups Blast Reid’s $15 Billion Jobs Bill as 'Puny'

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by
The Hill

Unions and Liberal Groups Blast Reid’s $15 Billion Jobs Bill as 'Puny'

by
Walter Alarkon

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President. More than two dozen organizations, including the AFL-CIO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and National Council of La Raza, warned Democratic leaders in Congress to avoid tackling the troubled economy through incremental action. (Getty Images)

Unions and liberal groups have dismissed Sen. Harry Reid's $15
billion jobs bill as "puny" while calling for larger stimulus measures.

More
than two dozen organizations, including the AFL-CIO, National
Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and National
Council of La Raza, warned Democratic leaders in Congress to avoid
tackling the troubled economy through incremental action.

They urged the Senate
to pass the $15 billion jobs measure, which features a hiring tax cut
for small businesses, but called for much more legislation to bring
down an unemployment rate the White House projects to average 10
percent this year, more than 9 percent next year and over 8 percent in
2012.

"If
this $15 billion was the only thing [that passed], that would be like
having an amputated arm and sticking a Band-Aid on the end of it," said
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, on a conference call Friday.

Lawrence
Mishel, head of the union-backed Economic Policy Institute think tank,
described the $15 billion bill being pushed by Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as "small, puny."

In addition to the $13
billion hiring tax credit, Reid's bill includes money to extend the
federal trust fund for highway and other transportation projects, a tax
break allowing businesses to write off losses from depreciating
equipment and bonds for state and local government infrastructure
projects. Reid has set up a Monday procedural vote to bring the bill up
for debate, and Democrats hope to pass it later next week.

The
left-leaning coalition is proposing its own jobs package that goes
beyond the House Democrats' $154 billion jobs bill, which passed
without House Republican votes in December.

In a letter
to Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the coalition called for
an extension of increased unemployment and COBRA healthcare benefits
for the rest of the year. The House bill provides $63 billion for a
three-month extension of those benefits, which are set to expire in
February.

The liberal groups' jobs package also calls for $40
billion for public works and job training programs, $70 billion for
school construction, $10 billion in loans for low-income homeowners
facing foreclosure and other provisions making it easier for distressed
homeowners to keep their property.

The coalition's criticism of the Senate bill echoes that of liberal Democrats.

Pelosi
said last week that House members want the pieces of their jobs bill,
which features infrastructure spending and fiscal aid to state and
local governments hoping to stave off public worker layoffs, in the
legislative package that Congress sends to President Barack Obama.

"The
House looks forward to reviewing the Senate proposal and working
together on legislation that creates jobs and helps our families, small
businesses and workers," Pelosi said in a statement.

Sen.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said job-creation measures should include fewer
tax breaks and more spending to directly create jobs.

Brown
spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said the senator will back the bill but wants
it to be part of a series of job measures this year.

"He wants
to see legislation that helps unfreeze the credit market for
businesses, helps manufacturers retool for the clean-energy economy,
extends unemployment insurance and COBRA assistance and provides
increased support to states so that programs essential to Ohioans can
continue," Dubyak said.

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