This was a vote on passage of a bill intended to aid job creation through tax credits and highway construction funding.
The job creation bill contained $20 billion for highway construction and mass transit funding. In addition, it would provide payroll tax breaks to businesses that hire unemployed workers. Specifically, businesses that hire such workers would be exempt from payroll taxes through December 31, 2010, and would receive a $1,000 tax credit if the newly hired workers stay on for at least one year.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 70-28 on February 24. The House, however, amended the bill to offset its cost by raising additional tax revenue.. As amended by the House, the bill would crack down on people who try to hide offshore earnings from the Internal Revenue Service to avoid paying taxes. Before the president can sign the measure into law, the Senate would need to pass the amended version of the bill.
Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) contended the bill would create 1 million new jobs: "The HIRE Act builds on legislation that the Senate passed last week, including direct hiring tax incentives for business, support for Recovery Act bond incentives that put local dollars to work creating jobs all across this country, and transportation funding that improves our communities, builds infrastructure, and supports local businesses. All told, more than 1 million jobs will be created by this legislation. This bill really is help for small businesses on Main Street and millions of Americans who are ready to see the benefits of a growing economy. Across this great country, our economy is showing signs of recovery. But consumers need more confidence, and employers need incentives to hire workers. Today, we give business direct incentives to hire new workers. I am pleased that the HIRE Act accomplishes this in a responsible manner. Not only does it fully pay for all of the important investments in job creation, but it actually contributes to reduce our deficit by nearly $1 billion. Let me repeat that again, reduce the deficit by $1 billion. The bill is a good step to rebuild our job market, but we still have a ways to go. I expect that this will just be a downpayment on our continuing work to create jobs and restore our economy."
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) urged the entire House to rally around a bill he characterized as imperfect, but critical to reviving the economy: "Madam Speaker, the theme of this bill is very clear: Back to work. I would think that would unite us and not divide us. Recently, we have seen economic growth. What we have not seen enough of at all is growth in jobs, and that's what this is really all about. There is no easy or perfect way to bring this about. It takes a number of steps. The tax credit in this bill is one approach. We are going to need additional steps. Another way that it relates to economic growth and jobs is through infrastructure. We can argue about how many jobs and about what the estimates are as to how many millions will be created, but it's clear. The Secretary of Transportation has said that he can verify $60 billion to $70 billion in infrastructure--roads, bridges--ready to go this spring and this summer. We should be united in providing the authorization for this to happen. It should not divide us."
Rep. Kevin Nunes contended the bill would fail to create jobs but succeed in expanding the federal bureaucracy: "Put simply, you cannot create jobs by dumping a trillion dollars into Federal agencies. The administration claims that $1.5 billion in stimulus moneys saved or created 1,664 jobs in California's San Joaquin Valley where I live. Even if one charitably assumes the accuracy of these numbers, the Federal Government has spent a whopping $900,000 to save or create one job in the San Joaquin Valley. Despite spending $900,000 per job, there are still communities in the valley that suffer from 20 to 40 percent unemployment. In fact, in the wake of the stimulus, we saw 3 million additional Americans lose their jobs rather than the 3.7 million jobs that are now being promised by the Obama administration. Sadly, a record 16 million Americans are now unemployed because the stimulus promises were empty and unaffordable. Is it any wonder why the American people continue to ask, Where are the jobs? It appears that the stimulus was not very stimulating outside of Washington. So here we are back again with yet another multibillion-dollar plan slapped together by the Democrats that will probably, once again, fail. Madam Speaker, the Soviet Union experience, sadly, taught us that just because you're going to grow 1 billion bushels of potatoes does not mean that there will be potatoes on the shelves. Similarly, just because the Democrats have chosen to message this as a ``jobs'' bill does not mean that it will actually create a job."
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) contended the bill would fail to create jobs and urged the House to long-term tax cuts instead: "Madam Speaker, I rise today in opposition of this so-called jobs bill. The incentives in this bill are a rehashing of the failed policies of the Carter Administration's stimulus in 1977, and I do not believe these measures will truly create jobs….Last year, stimulus legislation was passed in this House, promising that a trillion dollars robbed from future generations of Americans would create jobs immediately and unemployment would not rise above 8 percent. The truth, however, is that since this boondoggle became law, unemployment hasn't fallen below 8 percent; it has risen to over 10 percent, and still hovers at just under 10 percent….While it is noble for Washington to suspend payroll taxes for employers that hire new workers, enact a $1,000 tax credit for retaining employees, and increase the expensing of new equipment purchased by small businesses, I fear that these measures are merely a superficial solution. Employers will not be able to take advantage of these incentives if they do not have work to offer. It is common sense that employers hire workers because they have work that needs to be done, not because they will get a tax credit. The fact remains that businesses in this country are scared. They are scared by the uncertainty that Congress is projecting. The threat of increased taxes, increased government regulation, and costly government mandates are creating an environment that does not bode well for job seekers. We must focus on increasing businesses' confidence that their government will not further hamper their abilities to create work. At the end of the day, this legislation is a drop in the bucket, it is not the solution. Only after long-term tax relief can we realize long-term economic recovery."
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI) – expressing the sentiment of a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus – criticized the bill as insufficient, and urged the House to reject it: “The best stimulus package is a job. H.R. 2847, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, is not that bill. This legislation…is not the answer. How Congress can walk away with more than 680,000 people unemployed in Michigan, and more than 15 million people unemployed in our nation, is shameful.”
The House passed the measure by a vote of 217-201. 211 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted "yea." 166 Republicans and 35 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation intended to aid job creation through tax credits for new employees and highway construction funding, setting up a final vote in the Senate to clear the measure for the president's signature.