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Senate takes up jobs bill

By Tami Luhby, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Senate voted Monday to push forward a $15 billion jobs creation bill that would give businesses a tax break for hiring the unemployed.

Five Republicans -- including newly elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. -- reached across the aisle to approve the procedural measure, which passed by a 62-30 vote. One Democrat did not support it. A final vote on the bill should take place in a few days.

The 4-prong bill would:

*Exempt employers from Social Security payroll taxes on new hires who were unemployed;

*Fund highway and transit programs through 2010;

*Extend a tax break for business that spend money on capital investments like equipment purchases;

*Expand the use of the Build America Bonds program, which helps states and municipalities fund capital construction projects.

The legislation is a scaled-down version of an $85 billion bipartisan draft bill that was crafted by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

However, the bill does not extend the deadline to apply for unemployment benefits and the COBRA health insurance subsidy. Some 1.2 million people will run out of benefits after Feb. 28 if the deadline is not extended. Lawmakers are looking to pass a separate, 15-day extension to give them time to enact a longer fix.

Also, unlike the House's $154 billion bill, the Senate measure does not provide additional assistance for states. Many governors, who are holding their annual meeting in Washington, want the Obama administration to send more federal dollars their way so they can cope with yawning budget gaps.

The administration Monday said it strongly supports the $15 billion jobs measure, but indicated it is one step in the job creation effort. The president wants lawmakers to take up a bill that would increase small businesses' access to credit.

Reid said the Senate will vote on extending tax provisions and small business job measures in the near future.

Labor leaders and left-leaning think tanks say the Senate must do more to spur job creation.

"We need to create 11 million jobs to get back to the level of unemployment we had before the recession began," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. "Yet the Senate jobs bill would create no more than a couple hundred thousand jobs."

In addition to Brown, the Republican senators backing the measure were Kit Bond of Missouri, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted against it.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., voted against the bill.  To top of page

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