This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to a bill intended to aid job creation through tax credits and highway construction funding.
This particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
The job creation bill contained $20 billion for highway construction and mass transit funding. In addition, it would provide payroll tax breaks to businesses that hire unemployed workers. Specifically, businesses that hire such workers would be exempt from payroll taxes through December 31, 2010, and would receive a $1,000 tax credit if the newly hired workers stay on for at least one year.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 70-28 on February 24. The House, however, amended the bill to offset its cost. As amended by the House, the bill would crack down on people who try to hide offshore earnings from the Internal Revenue Service. Before the president can sign the measure into law, the Senate would need to pass the amended version of the bill.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) argued the bill, while imperfect, was an important step and would build on the success of legislation already enacted: "While the jobs package we are considering today is not as broad as the version passed by this House, it is an important step in the right direction and one we cannot afford not to enact. Today's bill is one that I hope will be the first of a series of job creation proposals that we will consider in the coming weeks and months because the reality is that the unemployment rate in this country is at an unacceptable level of 9.7 percent, and this bill will help incentivize employers to start hiring immediately. ….The proposal before us today offers a key strategic tax incentive for employers to hire new workers. The proposal would exempt employers from paying Social Security taxes through the end of this year for hiring new workers who have been out of work for at least 60 days. If the newly hired workers remain on the payroll for at least a year, the bill provides an additional $1,000 income tax credit to employers. This new hiring tax credit could spur as many as 250,000 jobs, according to leading economists. To help small businesses, the proposal offers an immediate writeoff, up to $250,000 for equipment purchased this year. To invest in additional transportation infrastructure, the proposal extends the Highway Trust Fund, otherwise known as SAFETEA-LU, for 15 months to pay for transportation projects ready to break ground. Using the rule of thumb in highway contracting where every $1 billion in transportation spending creates about 35,000 jobs, this $77 billion investment means that more than 2 million jobs will be retained or created…."
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) argued the measure would prove ineffective: " …What we need to do is increase the demand for our product. Those are the kinds of things that we should be doing. So, Madam Speaker, again I say, as I regularly do from this well, when it comes to job creation and economic growth, what we should be doing is pursuing the bipartisan John F. Kennedy/Ronald Reagan vision: marginal rate reduction and a reduction of the top rate on capital gains. Job creators deserve the kind of relief that is necessary since Japan is the only nation in the world with a higher tax on those job creators than ours. We know what it takes; we know what it takes. It worked under a Democratic administration, and it's worked under a Republican administration. So let's defeat this rule and go back and come up with a bill that will, in fact, create exactly what I said at the outset: good, long-term private sector jobs."
The House agreed to the motion ordering the previous question by a vote of 236-184. 236 Democrats voted "yea." All 171 Republicans present and 13 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House proceeded to vote on a resolution outlining the terms for debate on a bill intended to aid job creation through tax credits for new employees and highway construction funding.