The Senate's number two Republican, Jon Kyl of Arizona, said Tuesday, "There's no way it can be acted on this week," referring to a jobs bill Democrats are poised to introduce in the chamber. The Majority Leader, Harry Reid, D-NV, repeated Tuesday that he wants to complete action on the bill by week's end, even mentioning possible weekend work, ahead of next week's President's Day recess.
When asked why the bill cannot be completed this week, Kyl had a suggestion: "Ask Scott Brown!" Brown is the newest member of the Senate, a Republican who swiped a seat from Democrats in Massachusetts, in part by riding a wave of populist anger at the ways of Washington. Brown, according to Kyl, was asking around about a jobs bill Tuesday and wondering how in the world the Senate could possibly vote by Friday. "Good question," Kyl said.
While much has been made of "backroom deals" over healthcare reform, no such outcry has come on the jobs bill. One reason? A handful of Republicans have been in the back room this time. Kyl, who loudly decried the closed door sausage-making on healthcare legislation, had a softer tone on the jobs bill.
"The truth of the matter is, a lot of things here are done by staff behind closed doors, and it's not always the wrong way to put something together, as long as you have plenty of time for that product to get out to members so they can evaluate it, have the public take a look at it...If you're going to forgo the committee process, then you at least have to get it out to members so they can reflect on it. And that's why you can't vote on it by Thursday or Friday," Kyl said.
By and large, Republicans who have briefed on what's in the bill did not voice any strong objections. Finance Committee Republicans met in Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office to discuss the legislation Tuesday.
Kyl, a member of Finance, said he most definitely "would not call it a 'jobs bill'," though. He said a third of it is tax policy, which he supports, and a so-called "Doc fix" which keeps doctors who treat Medicare patients from experiencing drastic cuts in their annual federal reimbursements. That $35 billion "fix" is for seven months.
"No, I dont call that a jobs bill," Kyl said emphatically, noting that the Patriot Act is extended in the bill for one year. "All of that has to be done, but it does not create one job," Kyl said.
Only one provision, according to Kyl, would stand a chance of creating jobs: a payroll tax break for employers who hire new workers.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, also a member of Finance, had nice things to say. "I think it's fair to say there's a lot of content that would be mutually agreeable."
For her part, Finance Committee Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said she is still waiting for language and wants to see the Congressional Budget Office do an analysis of the actual jobs impact.
"We need to fully understand exactly how many jobs will be created or preserved with this. We did not do that with the stimulus bill, and we should have," the Maine senator said, adding that she intends to introduce legislation to mandate a "jobs impact stastement" like this for future stimulus bills.
Snowe said she would also like to see "unallocated stimulus funds" pay for the newsest jobs legislation.
Still, despite the consternation, it did not appear Republicans would block the bill.
"I think in the end a bill will be passed. I won't stand in the way," Kyl said, a welcome sign to Democratic leadership, to be sure.