The bipartisan 70-28 vote to pass the bill sends it to the House, where many Democrats say it is too puny. But they may pass it anyway to score a badly needed win for President Barack Obama and a Democratic Party that's dropped badly in opinion polls and faces major losses in midterm elections.
It's the first major bill to pass the Senate since the Christmas Eve passage of a deeply controversial health-care bill and the subsequent election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, which rocked Democrats by demonstrating their falling standing even among voters who tend to vote Democratic.
Democrats promise additional measures to create jobs, promising help for small businesses having trouble getting loans, aid for cash-strapped state governments and subsidies for people who make their homes more energy efficient. But budget deficits are a worry, and future measures are going to be more difficult to pass especially since a top Senate Democrat has blocked unused authority from the Wall Street bailout program from being used to "pay for" jobs initiatives.
The bill contains two major provisions. First, it would exempt businesses hiring the unemployed from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December and give them an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year. The Social Security trust funds would be reimbursed for the lost revenue.
Second, the bill would extend highway and mass transit programs through the end of the year and pump $20 billion into them in time for the spring construction season. The money would make up for lower-than-expected gasoline tax revenues.
The Senate's $35 billion proposal blending $15 billion in tax cuts and subsidies for infrastructure bonds issued by local governments with the $20 billion in transportation money is a far smaller measure than the $862 billion economic stimulus bill enacted a year ago.(2 of 2)
Construction Industry Continues to Lose Jobs as all States Report Decreases in 2009Bill would allow guns on bow-hunting trips