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Democrats Defend Moving Jobs Bill Before Tax Cuts

Senate Democrats on Friday unveiled a new jobs bill and announced they would use their final week in Washington before the midterm elections to debate the legislation, arguing that the measure is more urgent than addressing tax cuts.

The $720 million proposal, known as the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act, would offer tax incentives to companies that transferred foreign jobs back to the U.S., while also ending tax deductions for business expenses related to shipping domestic operations overseas.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that passing job-creation legislation immediately is of greater “urgency” than addressing tax cuts, given that the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 don’t expire until year’s end and can be addressed after the Nov. 2 elections. Durbin said the decision to prioritize the jobs bill was that of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and that he agrees.

“No issue is more important to the American people than the outsourcing of jobs, and that’s why we’re working on it,” added Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who joined Durbin on a conference call along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).

“The No. 1 question that any of us get this year — especially those of us that are running this year — is, ‘What are you doing in the United States Congress to create and save jobs?'” Casey said. “I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us.”

On Friday morning, Reid attempted to bring the legislation to the floor for a debate and an up-or-down vote, after previously deciding to wait until the lame-duck session to enact President Barack Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for only those couples earning less than $250,000 annually and individuals earning less than $200,000. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, setting up a Tuesday cloture vote to end the filibuster. It remains unclear whether the 41-member Republican Conference will remain unified and uphold McConnell’s filibuster.

“Republicans are naturally skeptical about the Democrat jobs agenda because of its horrible track record, and I don’t expect members to be any less skeptical of this last-minute proposal, particularly when it’s already being criticized by Democrats,” a senior Republican Senate aide said.

McConnell, in his opening remarks Friday on the Senate floor, criticized the Democratic legislation as a cynical election-year ploy timed to give the majority a political boost days before the chamber adjourns for the fall campaign. McConnell also disputed that the bill would create jobs, while contending it would add to the federal deficit.

“The majority has wasted months in this chamber trying to tell the private sector what to do instead of providing certainty to help them make investment decisions,” McConnell said. “This bill will do nothing to create jobs in the United States.”

Reid has scheduled a live quorum call for Monday evening, ostensibly to force Republicans to publicly debate their opposition to a bill Democrats are billing as a measure that could create thousands of well-paying manufacturing jobs.

Republicans are poised to make significant gains in the Senate in an election that is slightly more than five weeks away — not exactly a political atmosphere that lends itself to bipartisan cooperation. But only one Republican would be required to cross party lines and support the bill if the Democrats remain unified, and Schumer said the bill shouldn’t be dismissed as a failure before the vote is held.

In fact, Democrats last week were able to break a GOP filibuster of the recently passed small-business lending bill because Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) decided to vote with the Democrats.

“We’re hoping two or three of them will break ranks” and join us, Durbin said.