House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) proposed a $100 billion, two-year package of aid to state and local governments Wednesday to try to pressure the Senate to think bigger with its jobs agenda.
Miller's latest proposal includes some pieces of the jobs package the House already passed last year but is focused on aid to local governments to try to halt a massive wave of layoffs of firefighters, police officers, teachers and other local workers now under way.
Appearing on a conference call with mayors, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.), Miller warned that the budget shortfalls and resulting layoffs at the local level threaten to undo improvements in the private sector and delay job growth.
"This is a big bill because this is a very big problem," Miller said. "I don't think you can nickel-and-dime this."
Miller said he hopes that when mayors come to Washington, D.C., next week to lobby, they will help convince the Senate of the need to act. "I think they've got to explain to the Senate the kind of crisis that we are in," Miller said.
So far, the Senate hasn't been able to put together anything close to the package Miller is proposing, or the even larger package that has passed the House late last year, in favor of a series of smaller proposals.
Senate Democrats have sought to break the jobs agenda up into smaller bites that are easier to digest and harder for Republicans to oppose.
Miller didn't propose a way to pay for the package, saying that would be up to leadership. But the Education chairman and close ally to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said his preference is to add the spending to the deficit, arguing that the jobs that the bill will support will help the economy, which will in turn help the budget.