The jobs bill, which includes an extension to unemployment benefits among other provisions, could be passed if Democrats would be willing to pay for it with stimulus money and offset other spending, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said in an interview with The Iowa Independent.
Last week the bill failed to garner the 60 votes necessary in the U.S. Senate to overcome a filibuster.
“Ninety percent of the bill isn’t controversial,” Grassley said, concluding that the big problem is that he and many other lawmakers don’t want to add to the federal deficit. He chided Democrats for refusing to fully pay for the legislation with offsetting savings, revenue increases or using the money left in the federal stimulus.
Even though Democrats repeatedly cut the bill in an effort to win Republican backing, the latest version would have added $55 billion to the nation’s $1.4 trillion deficit over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Grassley said he’s heard from his constituents that they are tired of the government running up huge debt, and that the message is starting to get through to Democrats as well.
“It wasn’t just Republicans who voted against the bill in the U.S. House,” he said. “There were plenty of Blue Dog Democrats who don’t agree with this type of spending either.”
He added that in February he and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., put forth a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits and other important items in the jobs bill, including the biodiesel tax credit, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid killed the measure.
“It was paid for,” Grassley said. “We could have passed that in three days instead of wasting three weeks.”
Reid said at the time that the Baucus-Grassley bill wouldn’t do enough to show voters that the Senate was serious about addressing the unemployment problem, focusing too much on tax cuts and not enough directly on job creation. Critics also pointed out that extensions of both unemployment and COBRA benefits would have run only three months in Grassley’s legislation.