Barbara Lee: ‘Don’t call it a jobs bill’

The U.S. Senate voted 70-28 today to pass a $15 billion jobs bill, sending it back to the House; eight Republicans who on Monday either opposed or didn’t vote on ending debate and bringing the bill to a final floor vote actually voted to pass it today. Maybe they have some ‘splainin’ to do?

The bill would give tax breaks to businesses that hire unemployed people, and would jump-start spending on public works projects. When the House passed it in December on a 217-212 vote, it had been a much broader, $154 billion bill.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says the version the Senate passed today is dandy:

“This jobs bill is a positive step forward and welcome news for California, where the unemployment rate is 12.4 percent and more than 2.25 million Californians out of work.

“It was passed with Republican support, and I’m hopeful that this is a sign of a new bipartisanship in the Senate on one of the greatest issues facing the nation. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues — Democrats and Republicans — to pass more legislation that puts Americans back to work.”

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Commiteee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., agrees:

“Today, 70 Senators voted ‘aye’ and recognized the need to put jobs over politics. The infrastructure measures in this bill are going to save or create well over a million jobs.”

But Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, calls the bill “disappointing, to say the least:”

“Since President Obama’s announcement of the jobs bill in December, the CBC has expressed to the White House, House and Senate leadership interest in ensuring the chronically unemployed be targeted for opportunities to seek training and employment in the jobs bill.

“Data that suggest that the chronically unemployed include African Americans and other communities of color with unemployment rates significantly higher than the national average; youth and adult workers in need of enhanced education and training; and those who have lost their jobs as a result of the weakened economy and/or have been unemployed for at least six months.

“When presented with a powerful opportunity to create jobs and address the growing unemployment rates among the chronically unemployed, the Senate responded with a whimper. A ‘go slow’, piecemeal approach will do little to address our nation’s need for employment.

“It is critical that policy solutions include not only small business relief but worker training, the use of existing federal programs and targeted job creation to those communities with the highest rates and longest history of unemployment. Until the needs of the chronically unemployed are met, we implore leadership to stop calling this ‘the jobs bill.’”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.