Senate Dems unveil jobs package

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats circulated a jobs bill Tuesday that’s light on new initiatives on boosting hiring and heavy with provisions sought by lobbyists for business groups, doctors and the satellite broadcasting industry.

Senate Democrats were working to round up Republican support, hoping to hand President Barack Obama a badly needed political victory before Congress breaks for Presidents Day next week. Republicans are willing partners because much of the bill is made up of tax breaks they support, though many GOP senators said they were still waiting to see the details.

The 362-page measure is still in draft form and has not been officially released. The draft has very few new ideas for creating jobs, other than a $10 billion plan to exempt companies from paying the employer’s share of Social Security payroll taxes for new hires if they are unemployed and hired this year.

The idea, by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is regarded as more workable than Obama’s plan for tax credits of up to $5,000 for new hires because it is simpler and gets the tax breaks to businesses faster.

The rest of the measure is mostly comprised of last year’s unfinished business, including renewal of business tax breaks that have expired, an extension of unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies and forestalling a cut in Medicare payments for doctors.

The measure ignores some of Obama’s ideas, including the per-job tax credit, a $250 payment to Social Security recipients and $25 billion in help for cash-strapped states.

Instead, the cornerstone of the plan would exempt companies from paying the employer’s share of Social Security payroll taxes for new hires — as long as those people had been unemployed at least 60 days.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hopes to pass the measure this week, despite a second major snowstorm in less than a week hitting the Washington area Tuesday.

Reid said he expected the bill to get bipartisan support. But McConnell said he could not sign off on the package because many of his members had not yet seen the details.