WASHINGTON -- The Congressional Progressive Caucus released a plan on Tuesday that would create jobs, invest in clean energy and rebuild American infrastructure -- and has little to no chance of passage. Still, the jobs package, a farther-left alternative to President Barack Obama's jobs plan, could provide a negotiating point as the president's bill moves through Congress in the coming weeks.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the caucus, acknowledged that Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, are unlikely to support the caucus's proposal, but called on the American people to push for jobs legislation.
"We expect [Republicans] to be opposed," Ellison said at a press conference. "But we've got faith in the American people to rise up and demand that Congress pass a jobs bill. So we're fundamentally optimistic, but we're also realistic. ... We do expect the American people are going to bring pressure to bear."
Congressional Progressive Caucus members said it would be wrong to "cut the baby in half" and pass only parts of the Obama jobs plan, even though they do not support every aspect of the bill.
"[Obama] must insist that we have nothing less than what he presented, along with the additions we're talking about here," Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said. "This is an emergency, we must do it, and we cannot cut this baby in half. ... The whole proposal is what we must have."
At issue for these House members is the proposed payroll tax cut for employers, which could hurt the revenue stream for Social Security. But they were careful to say that they support the vast majority of the president's bill, despite some concerns about how it will affect key entitlement programs.
"We agree with the president, and because we're progressive we may have gotten him another notch on a couple of issues," said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).
The Progressive Caucus plan offers additional stimulus measures beyond those in the president's bill. It has several key tenets: the revival of American manufacturing, creation of a national infrastructure bank, jobs for youth, green industry development, support for labor organizing and higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.
"We think [Obama's bill] is a wonderful first step. We'd like to strengthen it and make it bigger," said caucus Co-Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
Part of the Progressive Caucus plan is incorporated in the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). That bill, set to be formally introduced in the House on Tuesday, would create more than 2 million jobs, paid for with higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Schakowsky said.
Many of those jobs would be in the construction sector, with an estimated 650,000 jobs created in constructing and maintaining schools, according to Schakowsky's office. The bill would also make possible 100,000 jobs for youth, 250,000 work-study jobs for students and direct funding to hire and rehire 300,000 teachers.
Getting more people back to work would grow the economy, Schakowsky said. "Businesses don't need more confidence," she said. "They need more customers."
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