Democrats seek new ways to fund Obama jobs bill

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 30, 2011 5:59 PM
Democrats seek new ways to fund Obama jobs bill

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats in the Senate are exploring fresh ways to pay for his stalled $447 billion jobs program that go beyond simply raising taxes on the rich, key lawmakers said on Friday.

Senator Charles Schumer said on Friday he was hopeful these alternatives would draw broad support. But he did not disclose what they may be.

Obama has proposed that his jobs bill be funded primarily through tax hikes on corporations and the rich, but Republicans and some Democrats oppose that idea.

Schumer said Obama was open to other ideas to fund the bill, which has yet to be taken up by Congress despite his pleas for lawmakers to act quickly. The bill aims to tackle stubbornly high unemployment through a mixture of stimulus spending and tax cuts.

"We are actively exploring alternatives that I think may garner very broad support," Schumer said during a conference call with reporters.

Democratic aides said no decisions have been made but acknowledged the alternatives could include other tax hikes or savings through spending cuts.

While Obama's call for job growth has generated plenty of Democratic support, senators on both sides of the political aisle have raised objections to how Obama plans to pay for it, said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.

"The oil-producing state senators don't like eliminating or reducing the subsidy for oil companies," Durbin told a Chicago radio station, adding that Obama's jobs plan did not yet have the 60 votes it needed to pass the Senate.

"There are some senators who are up for election who say I'm never going vote for a tax increase while I'm up for election, even on the wealthiest people. So, we're not going to have 100 percent Democratic senators," Durbin said.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the bill up for consideration this year, but it remains unclear when. At this point, Democratic aides say, the goal is to pass the entire measure.

But it may be broken up to smooth passage of those elements Republicans are more likely to agree to, such as extending a tax break for businesses that allows them to write off the value of new equipment purchases.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)