House passes building, welfare bill

Subsidies to aid state programs

By Stephen Ohlmacher
Associated Press / March 25, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Local governments would receive billions of dollars for construction projects and welfare programs in the latest in a series of election-year jobs bills Democrats are pushing in Congress.

The House passed a bill yesterday that combines $13.2 billion in interest subsidies for local construction bonds with $3.6 billion in tax cuts for small businesses and $2.5 billion in aid to states to pay for expanded welfare programs through September 2011.

The House passed the bill on a vote of 246 to 178, with nearly all Republicans opposed. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The Democrats aim to pass a series of modest measures to address unemployment as congressional elections approach in November.

With unemployment hovering near 10 percent, jobs and the economy are sure to be big issues in elections.

Last week, President Obama signed a bill that offers tax breaks to companies that hire unemployed workers.

Yesterday, the House took up a separate bill that would provide $5.1 billion to fund local disaster relief projects, including some that date back to Hurricane Katrina, and $600 million for summer jobs programs.

The bill cleared a procedural vote and is expected to get a final vote in the House today.

Democrats said the economy is starting to rebound, but with high unemployment persisting, they will continue to work on the issue.

“The recovery program is beginning to work; this will make it work better,’’ said Representative Sander Levin, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a Democrat from Michigan.

Republicans said the bills are evidence that last year’s massive economic recovery package was ineffective.

“Another week, another stimulus,’’ said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas.

Republicans said the tax cuts in the bill passed yesterday are too small and the spending too inefficient to make a significant dent in joblessness.

They also opposed a key provision to pay for the bill, a crackdown on multinational companies that use tax havens to avoid taxes on profits made in the United States.

All 10 representatives from Massachusetts voted for the bill.