Looking to possibly one-up Senate Democrats, House GOP leaders this week will take up a piece of President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs bill similar to a measure Republicans forced to the Senate floor last week.
The bill, expected to be on the House floor Thursday, would repeal the tax provision that requires federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of nearly all of their contract payments beginning in 2013. The repeal proposal is one aspect of Obama's jobs plan that Republicans and Democrats support, but Senate Democratic leaders worked to defeat it last week because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to be trying to use it as a contrast with a Democratic measure to give states cash to keep teachers, police officers and firefighters on the payroll.
The full Obama jobs plan failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP procedural blockade earlier this month. Senate Democratic leaders have been taking elements of the White House plan and forcing votes on them, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to vote once a week on a part of Obama's proposal. However, Republicans appear to be trying to muddy that effort by taking parts they agree with and bringing them up for votes as well.
"House Republicans are serious about making sure America is a place for opportunity, and that is why we are focused on ideas supported by the president and Democrats in Congress that will create jobs and return economic growth," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said last week, announcing that the House would take up the bill. "This is an idea that the president supported when he spoke before Congress last month."
A Senate Democratic leadership aide was heartened that the House was moving to consider parts of the president's jobs bill and hopes it continues.
"It's a start," the aide said, adding that Democrats are not concerned that the House Republican move might usurp their message on pushing for passage of the president's proposal.
"This is not a big enough peg to hang a message on," the aide said. "Pass the payroll tax [reductions], then we'll talk."
The president's $447 billion plan includes a provision to cut the payroll tax in half for all workers in 2012, building on the 2 percent cut passed in December.
House Republican leadership aides Monday stressed that their repeal proposal has been part of the GOP's agenda since August — well before the president unveiled his jobs plan in early September. The aides also noted that when Obama unveiled his plan, the repeal provision had been identified by House GOP leaders as an area where Republicans and Democrats could work together.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.