So Much For That! Bipartisan Jobs Agreement Falls Apart Almost Instantly

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Bipartisan agreement on jobs lasted all of a few hours. This afternoon, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus announced he’d reached accord with ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). They unveiled what was supposed to be a final jobs package. But the agreement didn’t sit well with many Democrats, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pulled it out of their hands, and announced he’d move ahead with a smaller bill.

“I think Reid saw the writing on the wall,” said one top Senate Democratic aide. “This was about to get bogged down again so he pulled it back.”

Liberal Democrats were not pleased with the Baucus-Grassley compromise. Among other things, Baucus and Grassley said that jobs could only move forward if the Senate agreed to take up a bipartisan “reform” (a.k.a. slashing) of the estate tax. They registered their dissatisfaction at a weekly caucus lunch this afternoon, and when it was over, Reid emerged to make the announcement.“We’re going to move this afternoon to a smaller package than I talked about in the press,” he said.

We’re going to do a bill that has four things in it: has a Build America bonds, which has been so dramatically successful. We’re going to do the highway bill extension for one year, which will save a million jobs. We’re going to do the — Section 179 small-business tax program, which, in effect, allows people to (inaudible). That’s going to be in one package, that we’re going to move together.

And then when we finished that, we’ll move on to the tax extenders and all the other stuff.

Reid could file for cloture tonight, before the Senate adjourns for President’s day recess, but the first procedural vote wouldn’t take place until after Congress returns.

For a bit of background on this, the jobs initiative originally belonged to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND). But Baucus recently objected, saying that he should be allowed to run certain key elements of it through his powerful committee–that by doing so, he could bring Republicans on board.

So the package went to his committee, where Democrats and Republicans tried to reach agreement on a measure to provide tax incentives for businesses to hire new employees–and on ancillary measures to allow Republicans to sign on to the broader bill.

Looks like Baucus was willing to give them far too much. More soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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