Congressional Democrats began refining their election-year jobs package Tuesday in a bid to pass a series of jobs bills in the coming weeks in an effort to balance GOP complaints about big spending with action to help unemployed Americans. Here are five things to know:
1. What's the first order of business? Democratic senators want to start with a bill that would exempt companies from paying the employer's share of Social Security payroll taxes for new workers hired this year, as long as those people had been unemployed at least 60 days. The plan would save companies 6.2 percent of the workers' salaries that are subject to Social Security taxes. It would cost an estimated $10 billion over 10 years.
2. What do Republicans want? Many Republicans vowed to fight Obama's long-stated plan to let income tax rates return to higher levels for families making more than $250,000 a year. Republicans said the income tax increases would hurt the same small businesses Obama is trying to help because many small businesses are taxed the same as households.
3. What else would be in bill? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the jobs bill would also extend for another year: funding for the highway trust fund; tax breaks for small businesses that buy new equipment; and a bond program to help state and local governments pay for infrastructure projects.
4. Unemployed will get more help: Senators also are considering extending unemployment payments for those whose benefits have run out, and renewing a program that offers the jobless a 65 percent subsidy for health insurance premiums under the COBRA program. Those provisions would be paired with the one-year extensions of $31 billion in popular tax breaks, including an income tax deduction for sales and property taxes and a business tax credit for research and development.
5. What would it cost? In all, the jobs bill could grow to more than $100 billion, though it is unclear how it would be paid for. Republicans refuse to go along with Democratic proposals to use money left over from the bank bailout program known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP.
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