Senate Democrats circulated a jobs bill Tuesday that's light on new initiatives on boosting hiring and heavy with provisions sought by lobbyists for doctors and the satellite broadcasting industry.
The 362-page measure is still in draft form and has not been officially released. It has bipartisan backing but very few new ideas for creating jobs, other than a $10 billion plan to exempt companies from paying the employer's share of Social Security payroll taxes for new hires if they are unemployed and hired this year.
The idea, by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is regarded as more workable than President Barack Obama's plan for tax credits of up to $5,000 for new hires.
The rest of the measure is mostly comprised of last year's unfinished business, including renewal of business tax breaks that have expired, an extension of unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies and forestalling a cut in Medicare payments for doctors.
The jobs bill is politically important for Democrats seeking to respond to public anxiety about the economy. But the measure also has a lot of pull with an assortment of lobbying groups seeking to extend a raft of tax breaks and other benefits that expire at the end of the month.
The measure ignores some of Obama's ideas, including the per-job tax credit, a $250 payment to Social Security recipients and $25 billion in help for cash-strapped states.
Instead, the cornerstone of the plan would exempt companies from paying the employer's share of Social Security payroll taxes for new hires — as long as those people had been unemployed at least 60 days.
The overall measure would cost roughly $80 billion, said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Many elements would be financed by a variety of provisions closing tax loopholes such as one enjoyed by paper companies that get a credit from burning a dirty pulpmaking byproduct known "black liquor" as if it were an alternative fuel.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hopes to release the measure officially later Tuesday with hopes of passing it this week, despite a second major snowstorm in less than a week bearing down on the Washington area.
Reid said he expected the bill to get bipartisan support. But McConnell said he could not sign off on the package because many of his members had not yet seen the details.
The powerful physicians' lobby is behind a plan to prevent them from absorbing a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments — but only wins relief through Sept. 30. Small businesses would continue to be able to write off equipment purchases as a business expense.
About $33 billion in popular tax breaks, including an income tax deduction for sales and property taxes and a business tax credit for research and development, would be extended through 2010.
There's still disagreement over some ideas, GOP aides said, including whether to add $20 billion in general Treasury funds to highway accounts for jobs-creating highway and bridge projects. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the talks.